After 15 years and more than 200 wins at the helm of the Eaton Rapids girls basketball program, Willis Whitmyer has decided to step down.
To say that Whitmyer is going out on top would be both cliché and understatement. Eaton Rapids is the reigning Class B state champion, and he is the 2014 Lansing State Journal Area Coach of the Year, but Whitmyer said that he had decided that this would be his last season in charge before it began.
But winning the state championship certainly cemented that decision.
“That was always one of my goals, to bring a state championship to Eaton Rapids, and the fact that we attained that goal kind of helped,” he said. “(But either way) I was done. It was like, ‘Wow, this is a nice way to go out.’ “
But revealing his decision wasn’t pleasant. Whitmyer said that the closeness of his senior-laden state championship team made breaking the news to them, which he did on Thursday, very hard.
“The family atmosphere was the most important thing,” he said.
“We are a small community and we really are like a family, and not just in basketball. It’s difficult, and it’s going to be difficult.
“It’s almost like giving up a baby for adoption, it’s been a part of my life so much. We had a good run.”
Despite graduating eight seniors from the state champions, including all five starters, the program should remain strong. Whitmyer said that he would have expected next year’s team to be competitive, whether he stayed to coach it or not.
“I just think that it’s a good time,” Whitmyer said. “I feel good about the decision, and I’m sure that the tradition will continue here.”