Chugiak boys basketball coach Orin Wear coaches during a game earlier this season. Wear said last week that he's stepping down as the team's coach to spend more time with his family. Chugiak compiled a 21-23 record during Wear's two seasons on the bench.
STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH
Orin Wear's welcome has worn out at Chugiak High.
After two seasons as the school's head boys basketball coach, Wear said he's stepping down following Chugiak's 66-53 loss to Bartlett on March 2 in the opening round of the Cook Inlet Conference tournament.
"I'm just not a good fit here," Wear said on March 4.
Wear doesn't live or teach in the Chugiak-Eagle River area, which he said made the job difficult both personally and professionally. He explained that in addition to wanting to be closer to home, he'd also prefer to coach somewhere he can install his program in younger athletes coming up through the middle school ranks.
"We had no feeder program here," he said.
Chugiak failed to reach the state tournament during Wear's tenure. The Mustangs were upset in the opening round of the CIC tournament last season, and were a likely candidate for their early exit this year based on their seventh-place finish in the eight-team conference.
The 2010-11 season was filled with inconsistent play from Wear's team, which entered the year with high hopes and a senior-dominated lineup. And things looked good early, as the Mustangs galloped to a 5-2 record out of the gate. But the team fell apart during an eight-game losing streak, and only won three times the rest of the season.
"We just could never get on the same page," Wear said.
Chugiak had chemistry problems all season, with players frequently getting into on-court verbal spats with one another and the head coach. Following the Bartlett loss, senior Colby Mitchell acknowledged the team had issues.
"We have almost factions," Mitchell said.
The team's leading scorer took some of the blame for the internal strife that crippled Chugiak's season.
"We have our moments, me too," he said. "...I start yelling bad things and start getting down on my teammates."
Mitchell said the disappointing season never carried over to the hallways.
"We still all like each other and we have a core group of seniors that love each other," he said.
Wear is a math teacher at Wasilla Middle School and lives in the Mat-Su. He said he won't miss the drive to Chugiak for games and practice, and is looking forward to spending time at home.
"It will give me some time to spend with my family, which I haven't gotten to do much of lately," said Wear, who is married with three small children.
The Mustangs went 21-23 during Wear's two seasons on the bench. He arrived at Chugiak with an impressive resume that included eight seasons as the head coach at Galena, where he guided the Hawks to a state Class 2A title in 2008.
After spending 2009 as a graduate assistant coach at Division II Western Oregon University, Wear was picked to replace Kevin Fullmer, who was let go after the 2009 season. Fullmer had been Chugiak's head coach for 12 seasons prior to his dismissal. Ironically, Fullmer's older brother, Greg, is now the head coach at Bartlett.
Chugiak activities principal Brian Hosken said he was disappointed to hear Wear wanted to leave.
"I think he was a good role model for the kids," Hosken said. "And he knows his basketball."
Hosken said he understood Wear's desire to spend more time at home.
"The time you have to put in to be a successful coach is pretty extreme," Hosken said.
Hosken said the school will likely begin searching for Wear's replacement shortly after next week's state tournament.
Wear said he wants to continue coaching elsewhere, and that his biggest regret at Chugiak was that he couldn't get more out of his players.
"The hard part is that you see the potential that's there," he said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727
This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, March 10, 2011.