NEGAUNEE - He realized all along he wasn't going to be rehired, but longtime Negaunee High School girls varsity basketball coach Gregg Nelson wanted a courtesy interview anyway.
"I just wanted to get a thank you for 35 years of coaching in the district," he said Wednesday after 18 years as the Miners' head coach. "That's all I wanted."
The Negaunee Board of Education Monday formally appointed Brandon Sager to replace Nelson, who was not brought back due to "inappropriate" language he used before the team this past season when confronting a bullying issue among his players.
Superintendent Jim Derocher said Wednesday a letter had been mailed to Nelson thanking him for his service.
"Maybe he got it (Wednesday), or he'll get it (today)," Derocher said. "We send out such a letter to all our employees (who leave).
"It's unfortunate his parting happened the way it did, but we appreciate the time he gave to the program."
The superintendent added there never was any thought about interviewing Nelson for the job after the latter had re-applied for the position as a non-district employee.
"I'm not a believer in courtesy interviews," Derocher said. "Why get someone's hopes up when they're not going to be hired?"
Nelson, who compiled a 211-153 career mark at NHS with four Mid-Peninsula Conference titles, five district crowns and a regional championship (1998), admits he used some language he's not proud of the day of a district tournament game in March.
"The bullying issue had gone on for a long time and when I heard about it again that day, I just lost it," he said. "I used some inappropriate language (in handling the situation).
"I had just had enough."
A parent of one of the NHS players complained and, together with a similar incident involving Nelson in 2004, district officials decided not to bring the coach back.
He had started his coaching career by directing the NHS boys' freshman program. During his long tenure, he guided both the boys' freshmen and girls' varsity teams from 1993-2000 while employed as a corrections officer at the Marquette Branch Prison.
"Going to practice every day was the best part," said Nelson, 57. "Teaching and making basketball fun was what it was all about. That and making the players better."
He said his 1997 team that went 20-0 during the regular season with stars Marisa DellAngelo and Maryellen Poutanen - "the two best players I ever coached" - was his favorite.
Nelson said he didn't care about wins or losses.
"I just wanted us to be better than when we started the season," he said. "Coaches get too much credit and too much blame."
Nelson said he'd like to be remembered for being a good coach.
"I was tough and hard-nosed, but I was fair," he said. "I treated everyone with respect.
"I can't let my (coaching) career go down just for this (last) year. I want to remember all the good things."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.