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Tronsrue steps down in Eagle-Vail

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EAGLE-VAIL ” Battle Mountain boys basketball coach Philip Tronsrue resigned from his position Friday after seven seasons at the helm of the program.

Tronsrue guided the Huskies to their only boys’ hoops Western Slope title in school history in 2005-06, a year he was voted Coach of the Year both by his peers at Battle Mountain and his fellow basketball coaches in the 4A Slope.

While Tronsrue’s teams made the state playoffs in the 2005 and 2006 seasons with a combined record of 37-11, the Huskies have struggled mightily the last three winters with a mark of 7-59.



After Thursday’s traditional postseason awards banquet, three parents of current basketball players ” Dr. Gary Weiss, Mark Lathrop and Mike McClure ” met with the Battle Mountain’s principal, Brian Hester, and athletic director, Rich Houghton, on behalf of the parents of the team to voice their concerns about the direction of the program.

Tronsrue heard about the meeting and abruptly resigned Friday afternoon.



In an e-mail statement, Houghton wrote, “At the end of all sports season, (the) Battle Mountain High School (BMHS) administration evaluates programs and makes recommendations in regards to upcoming seasons during the next school year. BMHS administration memebers were in the process of evaluating each individual coach as they do every year. Listening to parents is part of the process. While the administration did not ask for Phil Tronsrue’s resignation, nor was he pressured by (Eagle County Schools) to tender his resignation, he did choose to resign on his own behalf. We wish him the best of luck in the future and appreciate his service to the students, athletes and the district as a whole.”

In an interview Saturday, Houghton said that the school was going to look into the parents’ complaints and talk to the parties involved, but that Tronsrue’s resignation ended that process before it could begin.

Tronsrue said that he did not feel backed by the Battle Mountain administration sufficiently and felt it was a losing battle.



“(Houghton) didn’t say anything like ‘Do you want to think about it over the weekend,'” Tronsrue said. “All he had to say to me was ‘Phil, we support you. We’ll look into this. We don’t see how this will jeopardize your job.’ There was no comment of that nature.

“How do you revitalize a program without firing the coach? That’s what they wanted whether (the parent representatives) are willing to admit that or not. The administration should have been standing up, saying, ‘Phil is our coach.’ Why should I hang around in a situation where they’re not? That’s what I told Rich.”

Differing views

While Houghton would not comment on what was said in Friday’s meeting, Weiss, who also is the coach of the program’s freshman team, said that it was not his desire to have Tronsrue removed.

“My only feeling was that it might be time for a fresh start, someway to revitalize the program,” Weiss said. “We were not necessarily looking for a coaching change, but to look at what we’re teaching our kids. … There’s no reason we can be more like Steamboat who’s won something like 12 of the last 14 league titles. We want to win the league 12 times.”

McClure had a different viewpoint.

“The parents requested a change of head coach,” McClure said. “We didn’t feel like this coach could change.”

McClure cited “a body of evidence, as opposed to any specific incident,” saying that Huskies basketball had turned into a bad experience for the student-athletes involved.

“The fact is … over a period of years, the parents were listening to the frustration of teenaged boys on a regular basis about the coaching methods and what went on during practice and the games. The parents as a group had a conversation among themselves and expressed that conversation.”

Tough situation

All involved agree that basketball is difficult at Battle Mountain. The sport is a distant third in winter sports behind skiing and hockey, given the school’s location and history. Since moving up to 4A in 2000, Battle Mountain boys basketball has had just three winning seasons (2002 with former coach Kyle Haganess and 2005 and 2006 with Tronsrue).

In 1998, the Huskies went 12-11 which was the school’s first winning mark at 3A, dating back to the early 90s.

Weiss, Lathrop and McClure all said that they were not concerned with wins and losses, but what they perceived as a negative environment affiliated with the program.

When asked specifically if he had seen anything that could be considered overly negative in his opinion, Houghton, said, “There was nothing I observed. Again, this is something more that Phil was upset that the parents were not happy with him. I asked him to sit down with the parents and he chose not to do that.”

Houghton also addressed a hazing incident in February 2008, which had caused concern among the parents present. Before the team’s final game at Steamboat Springs last year, the seniors on the team shaved the heads of certain underclassmen. All the seniors were suspended, Houghton said, and that Tronsrue agreed with the punishment.

Additionally, there was a rumor of a possible repeat incident this season. Whether is was rumor or not, Houghton said that Tronsrue spoke with all three Battle Mountain boys basketball teams ” freshman, JV and varsity ” to prevent a re-occurrence.

Tronsrue, who will never be confused with Bobby Knight, denies that there is a negativity associated with the program and feels he is being used as a scapegoat by the players’ parents.

“There’s the old adage that the coach is a bum at one point and a hero in a another, depending on the talent level he has to work with,” Tronsrue said. “I think we’ve been competitive. I’m not saying we’ve been competitive every night, but we were competitive a lot of nights.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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