On the heels of the worst season in the program's 30-year history, Lawrence High principal Dick Patterson informed David Platt on Wednesday that his contract wouldn't be renewed as LHS girls basketball coach.
Platt notified his team and assistants of the news on Thursday.
"Lawrence High School district operates on one-year contracts for coaches and I wasn't going to be asked to sign my contract and that's the bottom line," Platt said. "Mr. Patterson decided he was looking to go in a different direction. We haven't had a great deal of success and I'm sure that factored in the decisions. I actually thought we were more competitive this year than last year even though our (3-18) record didn't show it."
Platt, a successful LHS sophomore boys basketball coach for four seasons before becoming the LHS girls coach in the summer of 1996, compiled a 28-77 record in five seasons with the Lions. He had never been a head varsity coach before the 1996-97 season.
Platt, who's been coach in some capacity during his entire nine years at LHS, was taken aback by the principal's decision.
"I was a little bit surprised," he said. "I thought we got great effort out of the girls. Winning and losing is important to a degree and over a period of time if you don't show improvement, that does become a more important aspect."
Platt plans to remain at LHS as a psychology and world geography teacher.
"At this point in time I'm staying on as a teacher," Platt said. "That's what I was trained to do. Lawrence High School is still a good place to be."
Platt's dismissal came three weeks after an LHS player's mother berated the coach on the Lions' court as LHS administrators looked on following a 74-35 loss to Leavenworth.
The Lions lost the final 14 games of the 2000-01 season, capped by a 69-28 loss to eventual Class 6A state champion Overland Park Aquinas in the sub-state opener. The 41-point defeat was the worst of the season for the Lions.
LHS lost three times to Aquinas and once to 5A state champ Shawnee Miege during the season.
LHS had its postseason banquet a couple of weeks ago and all indications were that Platt would return next year.
"He had always told me he was planning on coming back," Lawrence's top assistant Chris English said.
English said he learned of the dismissal via an electronic mail from Platt on Thursday.
Platt was excited about the upcoming season, especially with all but three players returning.
"With the girls we had coming back, I think good things are in the future," Platt said. "They'll be more competitive next year and two years for certain."
The Lions have had eight head girls basketball coaches since the program began in 1971-72. Only Larry Zientara and Gary Hammer, the two coaches before Platt, had longer stints with the Lions. Zientara coached seven seasons and Hammer six.
Platt becomes the 12th head coach at LHS to change jobs since Free State, the city's second high school, opened in the fall of 1997.
Patterson said the decision was a difficult one.
"David is an excellent instructor, an excellent person, very kid-centered," Patterson said. "But we felt David had taken the program about as far as he could. We felt we needed a new direction. It was a very difficult decision. It's hard to make those kinds of decisions when you have a person like David. We just felt like the basketball program on the women's side needed a new leader."