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HAGEN: Resignation right move for coach, but disappointing for Mitchell

Tom Young was 54 years old last April when he took over the Mitchell High School boys' basketball program. By no means was Young a fresh, bright-eyed coach straight out of college, but he wasn't an old man with hip problems struggling to get from...

Tom Young was 54 years old last April when he took over the Mitchell High School boys' basketball program.

By no means was Young a fresh, bright-eyed coach straight out of college, but he wasn't an old man with hip problems struggling to get from the locker room to the bench each game, either.

When Young took the job, one of the biggest questions raised was how long he saw himself as head coach of Mitchell after already having 20 years coaching experience. Most often, Young responded with coaches' cliches, saying, "I'm not thinking that far down the road," or "I'm only taking it one year at a time."

At about 3 p.m. Monday, The Daily Republic was given a tip that Young had resigned earlier in the day, only one year after taking the job that former coach Gary Munsen held for 39 years. The tip was true, and word spread quickly once we reported it.

Apparently, those weren't just meaningless cliches from Young.

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While talking with Young about his resignation, it became clear his decision was a well thought-out process that wasn't an easy conclusion.

Along with some health issues he's dealing with, Young said the long bus rides to away games became tedious, spending more time away from his wife and family than he preferred. He said those were the two main reasons he decided to call it quits.

And those are good reasons. If Young wasn't fully dedicated to all parts of coaching the Mitchell basketball program, he shouldn't keep the job. He made the right decision to resign.

It's just disappointing for Mitchell High School and the team's basketball fans that it took a trial year for Young to learn that the job was more aggressive than he originally thought.

By no means is Young's commitment during the season in question.

Young proved throughout the year he had a strong passion for the job. Fans at Mitchell games could see the frustration from the coach during tough times. During bad offensive possessions, his loud voice sounded throughout the court, his fists were clenched and his blood pressure seemed to be boiling.

He cared so much.

When the team was playing well, the joy from the coach was obvious. He wanted nothing more than for his players to win. He said when he got to see the reaction in the locker room from his players after victories, it was the greatest feeling he could ask for.

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Looking back on the year, Young helped a group of highly inexperienced players finish with a 5-17 record. Nothing great, but the season showed flashes of brilliance with a regular-season win over eventual state runner-up Brandon Valley, an overtime win over Watertown and competitive games versus strong teams such as Huron and Brookings.

It was obvious Young started making his mark on the program that was dominated so long by Munsen. Young came in and quickly made sure his players knew exactly how much effort he wanted every practice and game.

Unfortunately for the school, Young is a good coach who didn't know exactly what he was getting himself into when he applied.

When he was first hired he was the talk of the town, with people saying he was the perfect fit to replace Munsen. Many also wondered exactly how quickly he would be able to build the program the way he wanted and how he would keep the Kernel tradition alive.

About 12 months later, he's the talk of the town again. But now people are questioning exactly what his impact on the program will be. What is the future of Mitchell basketball?

If he decided to stick with the program and put in his full effort, he very well could have turned the team into an annual contender. His passion and the way he coached last year proved that.

But Young knew he wouldn't be able to give full devotion next year, knowing that on game day -- and especially road trips -- his mind may have been thinking about family and things other than basketball.

He made the best decision he could for himself and his family, but now Mitchell and its basketball fans are left disappointed, wondering what could have been.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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