SANDY — Jordan High School is looking for a new boys basketball coach.
Rob Geertsen, who led the program for six years, said he was called to a meeting on March 12 and told the school’s administration “wanted to move in a different direction.”
“Principal (Tom) Sherwood informed me that they were not going to renew my coaching contract,” said Geertsen, who guided the Beetdiggers to a 17-7 record this season. “He never asked me what my future plans were, and I still felt like I had a chance to keep coaching, but they made it clear I was done when I left that meeting.”
Sherwood said it was Geertsen’s ambivalence about staying at Jordan that led, at least in part, to the school’s decision not to renew his coaching contract.
“He’s been telling parents, other coaches and he’s even been more open with me and in the community, that he might be leaving,” Sherwood said. That, coupled with the fact that freshman will attend all Canyons District Schools next fall, led to the move.
“I haven’t had any teaching positions in the PE area for quite a while,” Sherwood said. “Between him putting it out there that he might leave, and us being able to hire a teacher, we thought it was a good time to make the transition.”
Sherwood said having a coaching position attached to a full-time teaching job attracts better quality candidates.
“It’s day and night with the applicants you get,” he said. “I had to make a decision because other schools are already advertising, and I wanted to make sure we could fill the position.”
Geertsen said he was confident the school would reverse its decision if he made a commitment to the program long term and they considered the positives of the program he ran. It wasn’t until he saw the job posted on the district’s website Monday morning that he realized the decision was final.
“I went to inform Tom that I intended to stay put, and hoped he would change his mind based on that information,” Geertsen said. “He made the choice to proceed, and I have requested his decision in writing. He’s supposed to get me something in writing tomorrow that says I am done (as head coach).”
Geertsen sent an email to parents of players and his assistant coaches on Monday announcing the decision.
“It’s been a great six years,” he said. “The kids have been great. We’ve run a program that emphasized the right things, and we have high-character, high-caliber kids. Whoever they hire will inherit some great kids who are fun to work with. I have no regrets. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Geertsen said the achievement he’s most proud of is that the basketball team has never had a collective GPA lower than a 3.5 in the 22 terms with him as head coach. He started a program that rewarded the boys for their academic achievement, and he said it became extremely popular.
“We wanted to win games,” Geertsen said, pointing out that this year’s wins were the most in 29 years. “But we felt like every year was a success because of the life lessons and values taught in our program that helped the players become better young men. We did a ton of community service and we emphasized academics, discipline and character.” The parents of his former players expressed appreciation for Geertsen’s efforts — off and on the court.
“The thing I liked about Rob is that he really pushed (my son) John academically,” Jay Gleason said. “Sometimes parents have a hard time getting through to teenagers, and he really demanded academic excellence. I was so appreciative of that.”
Geertsen won a UEA Excellence Award for teaching in 2009 and was nominated for a Burt Brothers Academic Excellence award in 2010. The Salt Lake Tribune named him a Prep Difference Maker in 2008.
Sherwood acknowledges Geertsen’s efforts on and off the basketball court. He wanted to emphasize that the decision had nothing to do with problems within the program.
“It’s not because of any wrong doing on his part,” Sherwood said. “It was just a good time to make a transition because I have some job openings. I need to put some stability in the program.”
Geertsen was disappointed that the school didn’t change the decision once he assured them he would stay. He said he’d have to take some time before deciding what his next move might be. The demands on high school coaches have increased, as well as the scrutiny, but the compensation remains mostly the non-monetary satisfaction of impacting the lives of young people.
“Sometimes I wonder if high school sports are headed in the wrong direction,” he said. “It’s about life lessons and doing the best that you can. Not every kid is going to get a Division I scholarship, so the program should prepare them to be the most successful they can be in real life.”