Rock Island Alleman won a regional championship, a holiday tournament and snapped a 37-game Western Big Six Conference losing streak this past season, defeating Quincy on the Pioneers' Hall of Fame night.
But in the end it was not enough to save Coach Patrick Rangel’s job. Alleman athletic director Joe Conklin informed Rangel on Friday afternoon that he was not being retained as boys basketball coach.
Rangel, an Alleman grad who started three years on the varsity under Pioneers legend Don Morris, said he was surprised by the move.
“I just thought things were going well,” Rangel said. “Apparently the administration and the athletic department felt otherwise, and they decided to go in a different direction.”
Rangel, who went 14-14 this season and 1-9 in the Western Big Six while carving a 59-105 overall record in six seasons, said he was told wins and losses were not the deciding factor.
“Ultimately the wins and losses, and more specifically, some of the notable wins we enjoyed this season, really are not the barometer of success,” Conklin said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “What really carried the most weight in the decision was the long-term trajectory of the program.
“And that’s really the reason and the core of the issue of why we decided to head in a new direction.”
Conklin did cite several areas that he felt needed improvement.
“I just think that the interaction with the players and the general player development, general program development were areas that needed improvement, “ Conklin said. “To me, those are things that measure the long-term health of a program, more than a win here or a win there.”
Conklin said Rangel’s replacement does not need to necessarily teach in the school. Rangel, whose best season was his first when the Pioneers went 19-10 and 5-5 in the Big Six, worked in sales and did not teach in the school during his six years as head coach.
“I don’t think (being able to teach at the school) is imperative,” Conklin said of the next coach. “Our coaches should inspire our players and conduct themselves with poise on the sidelines and in practice.
“The focus moving forward is going to be on more teaching and more coaching and an emphasis on leadership development of our players and our staff. Those are some of the areas we need to improve in the most.”
After winning the Class 2A Mercer County Regional with a victory over Rockridge, the Pioneers' season ended on Ash Wednesday in the Byron Sectional in a 43-39 loss to Rockford Christian.
Rangel said when he was told he wasn't being retained, his thoughts shifted immediately to spending more time with son, Austin, a junior at Alleman, and daughter Averi, a seventh-grader who he hopes to coach soon because of her love for the game of basketball.
“It will just be kind of a family thing going forward," Rangel said.
Reached early Friday night, Rangel choked up when talking about his players, some of whom he had already heard from. He said it was a privilege to coach them. “Just wonderful memories with them,” he said.
Conklin, in his first year as athletic director, said there is no timetable for when the new coach will be named.
“I think the most important thing is getting the right person in place, that the style fits more of who we want to be moving forward,” Conklin said, while also speaking of his appreciation for Rangel. “I can tell you there is a sense of urgency to it, but more importantly we are going to bring the right person here and take as long as we need to take.”