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Girls basketball coach at South Whidbey High fired

South Whidbey High School girls basketball coach John Pyrtek, shown here during a game this season, has been told he “is not being asked back” as head coach of South Whidbey’s girls basketball program. The Falcons were second in the Cascade Conference at 9-3 and had a winning 15-8 season overall. - Jeff VanDerford
South Whidbey High School girls basketball coach John Pyrtek, shown here during a game this season, has been told he “is not being asked back” as head coach of South Whidbey’s girls basketball program. The Falcons were second in the Cascade Conference at 9-3 and had a winning 15-8 season overall.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

Late Thursday afternoon, South Whidbey girls basketball coach John Pyrtek stopped by athletic director John Patton’s office to discuss the upcoming summer basketball schedule.

When he left, he was out of a job.

“I was given no reason other than I wasn’t a good fit for the program,” Pyrtek said.

“It’s lunacy and doesn’t seem to make any sense,” he said.

Athletic director John Patton declined to say much about the move.

“I can’t discuss specifics about personnel in a public forum,” Patton said.

This was Pyrtek’s second year as head coach.

In his first year, the team was 12-11 overall. But by any measure, the Lady Falcons had a very good season in Pyrtek’s second year, finishing second in the league at 9-3 (15-8 overall) and qualifying for District 1 playoffs for the second straight year.

Under Pyrtek’s guidance, the team gained a solid reputation for a potent offense by averaging 60.1 points per game in conference play and 59 points per game overall. South Whidbey scored more than 60 points on 11 occasions, and had six games over 70. The girls also set a school and team record for most three-pointers — 91.

Pyrtek was on a one-year contract, which will not be renewed. Head coaches receive $5,200 for the four-month season.

“Frankly, the whole thing took my breath away,” Pyrtek said.

As the news of the coaching change spread, parents registered surprise and bewilderment.

“I’m very disappointed,” said KK Iversen, the parent of a player.

“I’m just in the dark as to why this happened. My daughter (Janelle) only went out for the team because of John. They were very successful and I heard nothing negative about his behavior in any way. And I would have heard,” she said.

Mary Eaton said her daughter Jessi and her teammates were shocked at the news as well.

“On the surface, it just doesn’t make any sense. He taught the girls to believe in themselves and win,” Eaton said. “Basketball is John’s passion and he’s a terrific coach.”

Eaton’s husband Ron added that Pyrtek was in the process of organizing an open gym for freshmen players and a summer skills program.

Pyrtek speculated that one of the school’s teachers wants the job, or the district hopes to redress any Title IX concerns by hiring a woman coach.

“It would have been nice if they could have told me why,” Pyrtek said. “All the (athletic director) would say was, ‘I’m under no obligation to discuss that with you.’”

Assistant coach Greg Hein noted that Pyrtek had turned the program around from last year and was looking forward to making further improvements.

“Not a good fit?” Hein asked. “What does that mean? He’s owed much more of an explanation from the powers that be.”

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