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Bellmont High School boys basketball coach Larry Patterson became the second major coach at the school to resign this week as he notified school officials and his players of that decision today.
Football coach Rick Burkhalter stepped down from his position earlier in the week.
Patterson had been at the helm of the Bellmont basketball program for the past four years and before that served as a junior varsity and freshman coach for the Braves for nearly 20 years under coaches Kevin Leising, Shaun Busick, and Flava Sirk.
"This is something I've certainly enjoyed doing. One of my lifelong dreams was to become a varsity coach and since I wasn't a teacher I never thought that would happen. I wouldn't change anything we've done in the past four years. Not to make excuses but we had some injuries the last couple of years and that hurt. Sure we would have liked to have had a better record but it's all about those young men. The hard work, respect they've had will carry on with them for the rest of the lives and I'm sure they'll all be successful at whatever they do," Patterson said.
His record as a varsity coach was 25-60. Although his 2010-11 team went 4-18, that squad won its first sectional game in four years defeating Maconaquah 58-57 in overtime to make it to the semi-finals where they were eliminated by Peru.
Bellmont athletic director Dale Manis said "I can't say enough about the job Larry has done here for the last 21 years. He understood our situation here when he was hired and with several teaching positions available for next fall, it will be a great time to address some needs as far as filling coaches slots."
Neither Patterson nor Burkhalter were teachers and both will likely be replaced by coaches who are certified educators.
Manis explained that if a lay coach is hired in lieu of a teacher/coach, the school must receive an exemption from the IHSAA for the first two years. The coach must then complete several on-line classes to stay on as a coach and by the time the fifth year rolls around, they must show some sort of motion toward becoming a certified teacher.
With hiring restrictions the past several years at North Adams, the school was unable to fill some of the coaching slots with teachers. With some anticipated retirements this spring, that will change according to Manis.
"Larry has had a lot of positive influence on a lot of Bellmont basketball players over the years and I have great respect for what he's done for our program," Manis said, adding "when I was a coach here I considered him a mentor. I'd go into the locker room just to listen to him because I loved the way he could motivate a kid without yelling at him."
"Larry was very understanding about our employment situation and voluntarily offered the resignation because openings would be available next fall. A lot of people don't realize how much time and effort he put into the job. He'd get up lots of time at 2 or 3 in the morning to go to work (Patterson is employed at Smith Brothers in Berne) and then spend many nights watching film or scouting opponents.
"He would have liked to have gone out with a winning record—he's disappointed there—but he was glad the team did get the sectional win this year. That meant a great deal to him," Manis said.
Patterson said his successor will inherit a program that has grown stronger.
"We re-established the lower grade basketball program in the elementary grades, put on camps, things like that. You have to start the program there if you're going to be successful," he said.
Patterson is still involved locally coaching the seventh grade AAU team but is unsure about future endeavors.
"My work place has been very supportive of my coaching but it has been very stressful and trying time-wise to balance the two," he said.
He said he met with the players today to inform them of his decision and that "they understood the situation. It was hard, the kids who will be seniors next year will be kids I've coached since the fourth grade. There is a lot of potential coming up and the kids need to build off the sectional win we had this year and improve from there."
He concluded by noting "I knew the coaching career would end one day, I just had hoped it wouldn't be this soon."