Coach Mike Barcus focused on helping his players find success on and off the court during his four years leading the Whitehall-Yearling High School boys basketball program.
But citing the desire to spend more time with his family, Barcus, 60, resigned following his team's 59-45 loss at Caledonia River Valley on Feb. 23 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
The Rams finished 8-15 overall and 6-8 in the MSL-Ohio Division.
The 14th-seeded Vikings led 35-33 after three quarters and outscored the Rams 24-12 in the fourth. Senior guard Demetrius Carr led 17th-seeded Whitehall with 16 points.
"The season drained him because Mike puts his heart and soul into it," athletics director Mike Ferguson said. "He was retired (from teaching) and he would be over here checking grades. He would be over here getting stuff ready for practice an hour before he had to or tracking kids down for one thing or another."
Barcus, who has coached in the sport for 40 years, went 26-61 at Whitehall.
He previously served as the head coach at Licking Heights, worked as an assistant at Whitehall, Ready and Denison University, and was an eighth- and ninth-grade coach at West Lafayette Ridgewood.
"I enjoyed being around the kids," Barcus said. "Every job was different."
Ferguson said he will begin searching for a new coach once the spring sports season begins.
Carr, who led the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game, was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
"Coach Barcus is going to be a big loss," Carr said. "He treated me like a son. He means a lot to me. We did things together. He was a great coach. He missed out on a lot of sleep trying to come up with the game plans for us."
Junior guard D.A. Sanders (10.7 points) was second-team all-league and junior guard R.J. Mims (11.6 points) was honorable mention all-league.
Senior forward Marcus Pearce led the team in rebounding at 7.5 per game.
Other players eligible to return are junior forward Fred Weaver and sophomore forwards Tristen Ritchie and Dassan Jefferson.
Because of a renovation project at the high school, Whitehall practiced at Old Rosemore Middle School and played all of its games on the road.
The project is expected to be completed this summer, and the Rams will play in a new gymnasium next season.
"Mike did an outstanding job with an almost impossible situation that we put both our boys and girls basketball coaches in with practicing in a 50-something-year-old middle school that was not big enough for a high school team to traveling to practice, traveling to play every game," Ferguson said. "Mike got everything out of the kids. He kept the kids focused because that was difficult. I'm going to miss him."
Whitehall finished fifth in the MSL-Ohio behind Newark Catholic (13-1), Columbus Academy (11-3), Granville (11-3) and Bexley (8-6) and ahead of Licking Valley (3-11), Heath (2-12) and Lakewood (2-12).
"The kids kept playing and tried to fight through it," Barcus said. "I was happy with that. You try to teach them that you're going to face adversity and you just have to work through it."
Jones completes first season as girls coach
The girls basketball team went 4-19 overall and 4-10 in the MSL-Ohio in Stephanie Jones' first season as coach.
Whitehall lost at Granville 55-40 in the second round of the Division II district tournament. Sophomore guard Gayle Poindexter scored 16 points to lead the Rams, who had a first-round bye.
"I knew it was going to be a struggle coming in teaching a whole new system," Jones said. "We only had two varsity returning kids (in seniors Amber Lucas and Mamie Russell). We had a lot of graduates and some transfers."
Russell, a guard, averaged a team-best 11 points, made 43 3-pointers and was first-team all-league.
Poindexter averaged 9.4 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Senior forward Marissa Ware led the team in rebounding, averaging 5.6 per game.
Other players who could return are junior forward Brenell Williams and sophomore guards Ra'Jonika Cunningham and Christyanna Madero.
The Rams finished sixth in the MSL-Ohio behind Newark Catholic (14-0), Granville (12-2), Heath (9-5), Licking Valley (9-5) and Bexley (6-8) and ahead of Academy (1-13) and Lakewood (1-13).
"We had a goal to finish in the middle of the league and we finished just below that," Jones said.
Next season, the Rams will compete in a realigned MSL-Ohio with Academy, Bexley, Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson and Worthington Christian.