Nick Wood resigns after serving as Lawrence High athletic director for one year
photo by: Matt Tait
After a year of guiding a program he’s had a lifelong connection to, Lawrence High School Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Nick Wood has decided to step down, the Lawrence district announced on Tuesday.
Wood, who graduated from LHS in 1996 and has held multiple coaching roles there, said he decided to resign in order to spend more time with his wife and children.
“It was simply so I could have more time with my family,” Wood said in an interview with the Journal-World. “Being the athletic director and assistant principal at Lawrence High, it’s an amazing job (and an) amazing opportunity.”
“I just felt like I wasn’t as present as what I needed to be for my family,” he added. “And so I needed to just kind of take a step back and be there for them.”
In a news release, the district said LHS would immediately begin a search to fill the assistant principal and athletic director position.
“Nick Wood brought excitement, organization, and Chesty Lion pride in his role as LHS assistant principal and athletic director,” Lawrence High School interim Principal Cynthia Johnson said in the release. “The Lawrence High School community will miss Nick’s expertise facilitating effective athletic programming and his commitment to academic excellence.”
Wood served as AD for 11 months and helped LHS navigate the challenges of playing sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When he started last July, there was no way of knowing whether sports could even be played in the fall. The entire 2020 spring sports seasons were canceled when the pandemic struck.
But soon enough, he was helping coaches conduct their conditioning sessions for the summer — and then watching the Lions take the field for their first home football game on Sept. 4. LHS throttled Shawnee Heights, 53-0.
“The first big moment I had was our first home football game,” Wood said. “It was emotional; it was a beautiful thing. We couldn’t take that for granted anymore. Those kids and those coaches worked so hard during the summer to follow every single protocol that was put in front of them. They worked so hard to get there.”
But the work didn’t stop there for Wood.
The Olathe and Shawnee Mission school districts chose to postpone their football seasons, forcing Wood to adjust Lawrence’s schedule on the fly. Both school boards did eventually overturn their decisions, but the changes early in the season meant the Sunflower League schedule was in flux for much of the fall.
That gave the Lions the opportunity to play some talented teams they wouldn’t normally face, including Bishop Carroll (LHS won, 37-28) and St. Thomas Aquinas (LHS won, 39-27). It also gave Wood a challenge, because many teams knew they wouldn’t fare well against the dominant Lions, who went 9-1 for the season.
“We had one of the best teams in the state, and not a lot of people really wanted to take our call,” Wood said. “I felt like we built a very competitive and attractive football schedule. It was a lot of fun to do. It was fun to see a program like Lawrence High play teams that they don’t traditionally play.”
Once the season ended, Wood had another big challenge — replacing Steve Rampy, the head coach who helped the Lions earn those wins. Rampy left to take the head coach job at Staley High School in the Kansas City area.
Wood brought in a familiar Lawrence face to replace Rampy: Clint Bowen, a 1990 LHS graduate who had spent 21 seasons on the coaching staff for the Kansas football program.
“Once coach Rampy resigned, that was a big-time responsibility to do everything I could to find the right fit and find the next leader of the Lawrence High football program,” Wood said. “I feel like we found the right guy. It was right place, right time. I’m excited to watch what coach Bowen does with this football program.”
During Wood’s tenure, the LHS boys basketball squad also had a special season. The Lions went 20-2, reaching the Class 6A semifinals for the first time since 2017, and won their third consecutive Sunflower League title.
Senior guard Zeke Mayo regularly put on a show, averaging 21.2 points per game, and he closed out the season by becoming the first player in school history to win a DiRenna Award, given to the most outstanding basketball players in the Kansas City area.
Wood has especially strong ties to LHS’ basketball programs. He took over as the head coach for the LHS girls basketball program in 2009, the same year that Mike Lewis began leading the boys basketball program. Wood coached the girls team until 2014. Lewis is still the boys basketball coach and has led the Lions to the state tournament in each of the past seven seasons — the longest run of consecutive state berths in school history.
“Our paths have been crossing for a long time,” Wood said. “It was cool just to be a very, very small, tiny part of it, to be able to help support him and his program. They had an amazing year.”
Wood said he would be open to returning to administration and coaching when his kids were older. For now, though, he’s thankful for the opportunity that he had over the last 11 months.
“If I could sum up the year and my experience as the Lawrence High athletic director, (it) was that it was extremely exciting, rewarding, humbling, confusing, frustrating,” Wood said. “It was all those emotions wrapped into one, because it was so rewarding to be able to do the job I did.”