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May 14, 2013 7:48 am

School board to consider firing PHS basketball coach

Written by Dante Geoffrey

On April 19, six weeks after his Powell Panthers narrowly missed out on hoisting a state championship trophy, Powell High School head basketball coach Mike Heny was informed he would not be returning to his position.

He could step down voluntarily, or be shown the door.

 

 

The ultimatum came as a complete surprise.

“I had not been made aware of any issues before, during, or after the season (until April 19),” Heny said via email Monday morning. “I declined to resign given the reasons they presented to me.”

Heny will retain his positions at the high school as a teacher and assistant football coach.

Both Heny and Superintendent Kevin Mitchell declined to comment on the reasons for Heny’s termination as head basketball coach. Powell High School vice principal and athletic director Tim Wormald was unavailable for comment by press time Monday.

“All I can tell you is that I proudly stand behind everything I did as a head coach and that I did nothing technically wrong,” Heny said. “Unfortunately for me, it seems a difference in philosophy has arisen so I will be removed as the head coach.

“Obviously, there is a group out there somewhere that didn’t agree with all of my decisions.”

Heny has been receiving feedback from the community ever since rumors of his dismissal began to swirl around Powell a few weeks ago.

“People who know me and what I was trying to accomplish have been very supportive. I take great comfort in all of the people who appreciated what we were able to achieve these last four years,” Heny said.

Heny’s basketball coaching fate is now in the hands of the Park County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees.

An item on the agenda for tonight’s (Tuesday) board meeting states that Mitchell recommends terminating Heny from his position at the varsity squad’s helm.

Efforts by the public seeking answers during the board meeting will be futile, as it is school district policy to keep all matters of personnel private. Comments on the item will not be allowed.

“There won’t be a lot of drama,” Mitchell said. “The Chairman (Rob McCray) will explain that personnel issues are not discussed at public meetings.”

While the motive for his termination is unknown, the timing seems unusual.

The Heny-led Panthers are coming off a 10-4 (18-9 overall) season that included a regional championship and ended with a 41-39 loss to Star Valley in the class 3A state championship game. In his four years as head coach, Heny has led nine players to all-conference honors, three to all-state, two to berths in the Wyoming Coaches Association all-star game and one in the Wyoming-Montana all-star series.

“I am very proud of what I accomplished during my four-year run as the head coach,” Heny said.

If Heny is fired, it will be the first time in 18 years that he’s been without a position coaching basketball, a reality that hasn’t truly sunk in for the coaching veteran.

“I am still in a bit of a state of shock over this whole thing,” Heny said.

But Heny knows this kind of unexpected situation comes with the territory.

“Coaches are an at-will position, so they don’t have to give me any reason to let me go,” he said. “The administration is well within their rights to decide to take the program in a different direction.”

Heny said he has spoken with most of his players to wish them luck in their future endeavors.

Senior Marshall McArthur, who sits third all-time on Powell High School’s career scoring list, knows Heny as well as any other player. The two arrived at PHS in 2009 and have been together on the basketball court for four years.

McArthur, himself confused by the circumstances surrounding Heny’s ousting, said he felt anger when he heard of Heny’s dismissal and rumors that he treated certain players unfairly.

“He does everything in the summer. If you want to be good, you can be good,” he said in an interview with the Tribune Monday. “I felt like he was fair. We begged kids during the summer time to come play.”

McArthur recalled his freshman season, during which the Panthers went 3-23 and home games were attended only by parents.

“It’s just frustrating because he was actually building a program,” McArthur said. “He put everything he had into it. He definitely cared about his players.”

As for his own future, Heny hopes to someday coach again.

“Coaching basketball is something I love to do and if the situation was right, I definitely would like to pursue a head coaching position again,” he said. “I love basketball and coached for a long time at the middle school level so that may be something I look to in the future as well.”

Tonight’s board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the school administration building, 160 N. Evarts St.

18 comments

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 9:20 am posted by Grow up Powell School Board!

    Shame on you Powell School board...A man who grew up here (generations!), and has in turn devoted his life to our children, is an outstanding community member, and has brought pride and honor to our basketball program...You are just going to terminate him? Who are you people on the board? Because people who are interested in preserving the values of this small town would NOT act in such a way...When is election time again????? Its time to put some decency back in the Powell School board, good people dont act in such a manor!! Shame on you!!

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 10:05 am posted by Mark Mortimer

    As his own player said, Mike has done a great job giving every athlete the opportunity to get better and earn time on the team he was building. Funny how Superintendent Mitchell didn't mention this was his second termination of a successful head basketball coach in Powell. It is not a personnel issue, it is a personal issue with Superintendent Mitchell. Mike is a great role model for his athletes. Nothing unethical, immoral, or negligent has occurred-so why is he being removed? Time to remove the Superintendent for not letting a principal and athletic director do their jobs.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 10:53 am posted by Ridiculous

    This is probably one of the biggest jokes I have ever heard. As a recent PHS alum I have never seen such pressure put on a winning coach like Heny. He is building a program at PHS, how many other coaches have tried to do that. Day in and day out, even in the summer he is bending over backwards for these kids to get them in the gym. Who cares what kids are playing where and who cares whose kids arent playing. Life is not always fair and some people learn the hard way. I gurantee personal issues are being brought into this case. Maybe its time for Mitchell to take the high road, years back the superintendant wanted to make coaching changes and the board turned on him and canned his job, maybe the board should think about that. There have been football and volleyball coaches with worse track records yet somehow they are still sticking around. Its to bad that the decision has come down to this. If Kevin Mitchell has a problem with him you get off your butt, behind your desk and do something about it, better yet go out there and coach, see how long you last.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 11:55 am posted by Be Careful...

    It seems pretty obvious that this decision is not about the winning and losing. Try to remember, there are two sides to every story. This article only told one and without a lot of damaging personal information being exposed, you won't hear the other.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 2:36 pm posted by Chuck

    Quote the coach "I did nothing technically wrong,” Heny said.
    Now you gotta wonder what that means !!!

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 2:51 pm posted by Look at both sides

    Let us not jump to conclusions. First of all, the Powell Tribune decided to post an article in the paper completely one sided. They interviewed one player? Learning how to write in high school and college you usually need more than once source. Also, can you all definitely say this is a personal issue with Kevin Mitchell when you aren't on the team? Now, I know that if someone comes out and says something negative against Coach Heny the whole world can say he/she is being mean but is this not a place to put your opinions? Unfortunately in Powell it is considered wrong to fire a coach if the whole community can't know exact reasons. But if I recall coaches in places such as Sheridan and Gillette also have tight leashes too. Please find out all you can about the story before lashing out at people.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 3:03 pm posted by Completely Stunned!

    I can personally say I knew everyone on the team for the past 4 years. I've been at practices and games. Mr. Heny was a fantastic coach. He turned the entire program into a success and was continuing to build it into a strong program. This whole thing started of with parents complaining about there kids not getting to play as much as the others. I am sorry to say but Coach Heny put the best players out on the floor and the ones that competed hard in practice. There was no favoritism or kids getting mis treated. I think if the school district continues to bow down to parents because of there kids not getting to play then nobody will ever want to coach in powell! Should the football,volleyball,soccer,golf,tennis,and track coaches feel safe? Because it seems like at any time the parents can come running and get any coach fired at their will. I wish all the coaches would go to the school board meeting tonight and stand up for Coach Heny. Cause sadly we may be leaving a damn good coach.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 4:06 pm posted by Completely Stunned?

    You knew everyone on the team? I'm kind of interested to hear more. If you knew every kid and claimed that every kid was treated fairly then why were kids quitting these past two years more than ever? And do you think its fair for a coach to be coaching his own son? I respect your opinion on Coach Heny but I question your logic when kids on his team have been saying other things about him and they only put the good things in the paper.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 4:14 pm posted by Panther Basketball Fan

    I have been watching Powell basketball for years and I have been enjoying the success of the program in recent years. Coach Heny took Powell to state basketball in back to back years for the first time in over a decade. In most athletic worlds, winning is fun ~ not at all costs but most would agree that it is more fun to win than to lose. I understand that one of the complaints is preferential playing time for certain players, this happens in football and volleyball as well. A coach has to decide who to play and how much time that player will receive - that is essentially the coach's decision and obviously Coach Heny was making some good choices as Powell won the Regional Championship and played for the state title this year as well. Every coach at the varsity level is guilty of preferential playing time. There are three sources quoted in the article: Heny, Mitchell and McArthur so I would say the reporter did his job and interviewed multiple sources, just differing perspectives. As for interviewing one player, he is longest tenured player in Coach Heny's program so he would have knowledge of the summer program and seeing the program go from 3-23 to playing for a state championship. That would be considered a good source by most reporters. I am one person that believes Powell Panther basketball is and was fun to watch these past few years and I am disappointed in this decision. Hopefully the board will retain Coach Heny and he can continue building a successful program at PHS.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 4:28 pm posted by Bullying has no place in schools

    Unfortunately for gossipers and fortunately for the kids & parents who were willing to step forward, this situation needs to end. First and foremost...is it all about winning? Does it matter how players are treated or allowed to treat each other? As we have started to see nationally, it should not be JUST about winning. Hopefully the board does what is right by the ones who weren't afraid to speak up. It is admirable to see this being addressed on a winning season to highlight the importance of what sports should be about. "Technically I did nothing wrong" oh if the whole story could be known.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 5:19 pm posted by Learn the story

    Hahahaha! What a joke! Here we are criticizing the most successful Powell basketball coach in recent years. Anyone who says to look at both sides clearly doesn't know much, because there is only one side to the story.. He did absolutely nothing wrong! He played who he thought should play (all SUCCESSFUL coaches do that) and never once broke a policy. Ask the AD for yourself. He will tell you he never broke policy! So where did he go wrong? He won too much? He invested too much time in the program? He got fans excited again? Tell me the last time Powell had three cobsecutive trips to the regional tournament as the two seed or better? The numbers never lie. Such a shame, and I can't wait to see what gem can be picked to tear down the boys program since successful ones obviously aren't allowed, their stays are shorter than unsuccessful ones.

  • Comment Link May 14, 2013 6:18 pm posted by Disappointed in Powell

    I applaud the comment by Ridiculous, isn't it all too obvious where this problem has arisen? I am sad to say that in a community, that I was proud to belong to, influential parents who believe their child athletes are better than they actually are have bent the ear of the superintendent of Park County School District #1. Mr. Mitchell is merely securing his role as superintendent by bending to the wishes of some of the more influential members of the community. It is disheartening to believe that the school board members would allow themselves to be so thoroughly manipulated! I applaud your efforts Mr. Heny, you have done very well! I for one am proud to have watched you and your team in action.

  • Comment Link May 15, 2013 8:18 am posted by Two Sides

    I'm going to stand up for Mr. Mitchell in this case and say that I believe that he is a man of integrity and cares deeply about the students in this district. He is just in a position right now where he can't give all the details or the reasons for all of this. Personally, I don't believe that he or Mr. Wormald would go through all of this without very good reasons and believing that they are doing what is best for the kids.

  • Comment Link May 15, 2013 12:07 pm posted by Looking To Move Forward

    Thank you Two Sides. Since I do have knowledge of what has been going on and have been in situations where it would be easier to let everyone know the whole story but can't because of legal ramifications. It is harder for both Mitchell and Wormald to go through these sitauations than most people can realize. The easy road would be for them to not do anything but they are accountable for all the students and teachers not just a select few. I can assure you that they have lost sleep over this decision but in the end felt like this was their job and they did it the best and legal way. I applaud them for standing up and doing their job.

  • Comment Link May 15, 2013 1:57 pm posted by Looking to next season

    A comment was made that McArthur is the longest tenured player for coach Heny. Are we discrediting the other members of his team who were there just as long? I'm glad to see that there are level headed people on here who can look at both sides and realize that the story is more than meets the eye and that this wasn't just a descision made on a whim. While there are points to both sides we must realize that the kids who are still playing are going to play there hearts out and you shouldn't discredit what they can accomplish this upcoming year. We should all start supporting them now and whether you like it or not realize that they have decided to move on. Best of luck next year Panthers!

  • Comment Link May 15, 2013 1:59 pm posted by lost sleep?

    Ha ha are you kidding me? He lost sleep? What a joke! Mr mitchell doesn't care about the students or coaches. He had to get all the school board members on his side to vote him out. What lies were he telling them? I think some of the school board members are afraid to stand up to mitchell and vote against his request. They keep it all private cause they know there all lieing through there teeth.

  • Comment Link May 16, 2013 1:19 pm posted by who should be fired

    I question the policy of not discussing personnel issues in public. Was it not the public that initiated Heny's firing. I'd so then though the conversations may have been private (secret) the rest of the public has a right to rebuke those persons as not representing the majority. If Heny's firing is legitimate then should he not be fired from all coaching and probably teaching as well. Then other parties of interest will not so much as take calls from local media to at least say they cannot comment at this time or on this issue. What are they hiding or who are they hiding from. I suggest someone does need fired or tossed out, however what us reported so far does show it should be Coach Heny!

  • Comment Link May 19, 2013 3:58 pm posted by WTG School Board

    Next they need to get rid of his sister as track coach.

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