APPLETON, Wis. – John Mielke has resigned as the head coach of the Appleton East boys basketball team.
The resignation came two days after several parents of East players confronted Mielke at a bar, accusing him of being too hard on his players and suggesting many on the team no longer wanted to play for him.
According to several sources, Mielke was approached after Friday’s loss to Appleton West by small group of parents of Appleton East basketball players. According to sources, the parents questioned Mielke’s coaching tactics, with one of the parents repeatedly calling the team’s play “embarrassing.”
Sources said the parents told Mielke that some of the players on the team no longer wanted to play for him. Some indicated that Mielke “yelled at their kids too much” during practices and games.
East was scheduled to practice Sunday morning, but Mielke called the team together and told them that he was stepping down as head coach. According to sources, several other coaches in the boys basketball program have joined Mielke in stepping down. Monday’s practice has been postponed and the status of Tuesday’s game at home against Oshkosh North is unknown.
Multiple people in the bar at the time confirmed the series of events to USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. And several players attending Sunday’s practice confirmed Mielke’s comments to the team.
Phone calls to Mielke and East athletic director Tim Zachow were not returned. Zachow did reply to an email, saying: “I will talk to John tomorrow and can answer any questions you have after I talk with him.”
Mielke, in his 18th season at East, compiled a record of 207-197 with the Patriots and has an overall coaching mark of 353-273. East is 4-10 overall this season and 3-9 in the Fox Valley Association.
East had its finest season under Mielke in 2010-2011. The Patriots reached the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals in March 2011 and finished with a 26-1 record, 18-0 in the FVA.
Johnny Coenen, the team’s starting point guard on that state team, said he was “shocked” to hear the news of Mielke’s resignation.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity I had with all my teammates to play for Coach Mielke,” Coenen said. “The confidence and trust he had in me as a player over those four years has been something I always appreciate and look back on.”
Coenen added that Mielke was a pivotal person in his development as a player and person.
“Coach Mielke was a huge influence in not only mine but countless other students’ basketball dreams,” Coenen said. “I’ve never been around a coach who cared so deeply for each and every player on his teams. He wanted each student-athlete to become not only a better basketball player, but most importantly a better human being off the court. He was able to start a youth program for Appleton East from the ground up and continued to share his passion for basketball at all grade levels. Our success at the high school level would have never been possible without Coach and the endless hours he put into the youth and high school programs. I know I can speak for many of my teammates over the years and thank him for how he made us all better on and off the court.”
Kimberly coach Lucky Wurtz said he was “shocked at the timing” and that he heard the news from one of his players at practice Sunday morning.
“He’s a legend in what he knows about the game. He knows so much about basketball, it’s unbelievable, but he was definitely kids first. There’s no doubt about that,” Wurtz said. “I definitely want to be that kind of person too and that’s been the hope of how my legacy is. But I’ve done a lot of talking with John on that and I’ve learned from him not just about basketball, but just about the approach and what the game is all about and how to do it the right way.”
Coaches and players from around the area showed support for Mielke on Twitter when they learned of Mielke’s resignation.
Said Kaukauna senior guard Jordan McCabe: “Grateful to have been able to compete against and witness one of the best coaching careers in the FVA! (Thanks) for everything you did for this league, myself and the entire community Coach Mielke.”
Appleton West junior guard Will Mahoney: “One of the greatest to ever do it. Much respect for coach Mielke.”
Oshkosh North senior guard Tyrese Haliburton: “Sad to see another Wisconsin legend retire, always had so much respect for Coach Mielke and his teams.”
St. Norbert College men’s coach Gary Grzesk: “Hopeful this was his own decision. Great coach – better person. Remember him sitting behind our bench at Brown County Arena. Been a regular at our practices each year. Deserves to retire on his own timetable.”