MARQUETTE - Westwood girls varsity basketball coach Tom Hammar was pushed out the Patriots' door in April.
In June, Negaunee girls varsity basketball coach Gregg Nelson was told he had to reapply for his job and while no official word has come from the Miners, Nelson is not expected back on the bench this winter.
Now, the Gwinn girls varsity and eighth-grade basketball team is looking for a new bench boss as well with the Gwinn Area Community School Board set to accept a letter of resignation from head coach Brad Pfluger during a 6:30 p.m. meeting on Monday, August 20.
Like Hammar and Nelson, Pfluger had every intention of coaching in 2012-13, but after a July meeting with new athletic director Rob Soyring, he was left with no other choice but to walk away, according to the coach's account.
"I didn't quit," said Pfluger, who has taught high school algebra in the district for 13 years. "I didn't choose to walk away. I was told, 'Resign or be terminated and never have a chance to coach again in the district.'
"It was an absolute shock."
Both Soyring and Gwinn Superintendent Kim Tufnell said no ultimatum was handed down to Pfluger, with Tufnell adding Pfluger could be considered for another coaching job in the future.
Soyring said Pfluger is a respected person in the community, a respected teacher and a valuable booster and supporter of Modeltowner athletics.
The new AD wasn't comfortable with the direction the girls basketball program was heading, however, and he felt it was time for a change in leadership, he said.
"I'm at a point where I just need to make a change because the program hasn't evolved into anything I was comfortable moving forward with," Soyring said.
"I just honestly told him, 'Brad, I really need to go in a different direction. I'm going to be honest and up front with you.' I said, 'What you want to do with that, that's in your court, but I will be going in a different direction.'"
Pfluger, 1994 GHS graduate and 1999 Northern Michigan University grad who coached Gwinn for five years, said he was told by Soyring the Modeltowners' program "needed a spark" and that "they wanted new blood in the program."
Pfluger said he also heard rumors that some in the community were not happy with him as coach and according to a letter to The Mining Journal submitted by Pfluger's father, Jim, disgruntled parents are at the bottom of his son's ousting.
"Over the last few months, there have been a few disgruntled parents that have voiced their complaints about the coach to the school board," Jim Pfluger wrote in his letter to the editor. "Because of that, the board or athletic director decided the easiest thing to do is get rid of the coach."
Soyring said the decision was his and his alone to make. No parent pressure is necessary to make a coaching change, he said.
"I've coached basketball for the last 16-17 years," Soyring said. "I'm around the program 24/7. I don't need parents squawking at me to make a decision. I don't need children squawking at me to make a decision.
"It's the results. Our children need to excel. Our kids need to be inspired. Our kids need to learn effort and hard work. All that stuff goes into evaluations."
Pfluger served as the girls varsity coach for five seasons while also coaching the eighth-grad program for four years.
After finishing third in the MPC in 2010-11 and accumulating a 11-10 overall record, Gwinn finished 5-15 overall last season and sixth out of seven teams in the conference.
There were some bright spots, however, with Pfluger's squad last year, such as second-team All-MPC selection Emma Cole, all-defensive nod Lydia Asplund and a pair of All-MPC honorable mentions in Asplund and Paige Vincent.
The team was also honorable by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan as an honorable mention academic all-state team with a cumulative GPA of 3.47.
Cole was the lone senior on last year's team, leaving the next coach with Asplund and Vincent back as seniors, as well as sophomore Ellie Olsen, who saw valuable time as a freshman in 2011-12.
"I was excited with the fact that this was the first year we should have athleticism and depth," Pfluger said.
"I had seven returning seniors most likely, give or take. I had a few juniors that are solid. I had a sophomore who played as a freshman. I really thought for the first time I had some depth."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.