T.J. Sawyer is taking the next step in his coaching career. The head coach of the Colchester High School girls basketball team and the University of Vermont club football squad has accepted an assistant position with the St. Michael’s College’s women’s program.
Sawyer said he’s leaving both positions to join the Purple Knights, a Division II program that competes in the Northeast-10 Conference.
“It’s a little bittersweet; it was tough,” Sawyer said Wednesday evening. “It’s a great step for my career.”
Sawyer joins a SMC staff headed by Shannon Kynoch, who was hired to replace Jen Niebling earlier this month. Sawyer and Kynoch were classmates at South Burlington High School, graduating in 2003. After 10 seasons, Niebling left for personal reasons and relocated to Arizona.
“When (Kynoch) got the job, I told her I was interested and we went through the right steps to get me on board,” Sawyer said. “I was very happy at Colchester and happy at UVM; I had two great things going. But career-wise, it’s always been one of my goals to be a collegiate coach.”
After a 0-21 record in his first season, Sawyer changed the culture at Colchester, turning the Lakers into a Division I contender from the Lake Division. The Lakers won a program-best 17 wins in the 2011-2012 season, when they made their first Division I semifinals.
The UVM club football team reached the conference championship game in all three of Sawyer’s seasons. They were also ranked No. 1 in the country for a six-week stretch two years ago.
While the Laker girls were sad to see him leave, Sawyer said they wished him well.
“There were some tears, but all and all they are happy for me,” Sawyer said. “They will carry on the tradition we’ve built these last few years.”
A special education teacher at Colchester, Sawyer said he was unsure if he’ll remain with the school moving forward.