When you’re longtime basketball coaches like Darin Spence and Craig Fletchall, you foster everlasting friendships in the coaching fraternity.
That’s one of the things Spence said he is going to miss most after accepting the position as women’s head basketball coach late last week at NCAA Division-II Newman University in Wichita.
“At the end of the day, I’m really going to miss working every day with my buddy Fletch,” Spence said over the weekend. “He and I have been friends for a long time, and he’s probably the biggest reason I came back and went to Barton Community College.
“I think he’s a great guy, and our families are close. I’m going to miss him.”
As it turned out, Spence only had a one-year fling as Barton’s women’s head coach after serving at D-I New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M., the previous eight campaigns.
Fletchall said he’s sad to see a friend and member of the Jayhawk Conference coaching fraternity come and go so quickly.
Late this summer, when Fletchall begins preparations for his eight season as Barton’s men’s head coach, he will help usher in the sixth women’s head coach during his tenure.
“It disappoints me, but I’m happy for him at the same time,” Fletchall said of Spence. “We definitely need some stability at that position.
“I think, for the most part, coaches that are leaving that position are leaving to move up and people need to understand that. I think the disappointing thing is we’ve lost coaches in other sports to other jucos in our conference … that’s what’s disappointing.”
Fletchall said he agrees the high rate of turnover for players and coaches alike in the juco ranks is part of the cycle.
Yet, he said he believes that sometimes the player or coach is not giving his school a chance.
“You know about the old adage that the grass is always greener,” Fletchall said. “We’ve all had assistant coaches that chose to move on and they realized that (Barton) is a pretty good place.
“It’s par for the course.”
Perhaps Matt Hundley, Fletchall’s assistant the past two seasons, is an example of a coach that is paying his dues, waiting for the right time to make a jump.
Hundley undoubtedly seeks a future head-coaching job, and Spence’s assistant this past season, Carter Kruger, also falls in that category as he has emerged as a candidate to replace Spence.
“Matt and Carter, it’s really kind of a Catch-22,” Fletchall said. “Professionally, do they play the waiting game and try to be promoted here or do they try to move on themselves? It’s something that’s hard to answer. I’ve been up front with my assistant that I don’t plan on going anywhere soon.
“Matt, I will be blessed if I can keep him another season, but he’ll probably move up to Division I or be a head coach by this time next year. Some of these guys that come in assume that putting in that one season is paying their dues, and I look at young coaches and young players and you look at the coaches that have been around a while. Our idea of paying dues and the ideas of new coaches paying dues are 180 degrees different.”
Barton athletic director Trevor Rolfs acknowledged that Kruger has applied for the women’s vacant post.
“Carter has done a tremendous job for us since he came here last summer,” Rolfs said. “He is being considered for the women’s basketball position.
“We’d like to move on this quickly. I would like to tell the Barton faithful that we will have another great coach running our women’s program soon.”