Going in a new direction: Phil Parlin will not be back as Plano head coach
For those watching closely, there was an emotional moment prior to tip-off of the Plano Senior-McKinney Boyd boys basketball game Tuesday night.
"We were all facing the flag for the National Anthem, like we always do, and the guys all put their arms around each other," said Phil Parlin, Plano Senior head coach. "That was something that just meant the world to me, especially since I knew that could be my last game."
Parlin was, in fact, informed Thursday he would not return as Wildcats head coach.
"I met with our principal and athletic director, and because of the timing, I sort of knew this was going to happen," said Parlin, who is still teaching P.E. at Stinson Elementary. "I was extremely saddened and disappointed, but the disappointment is on me because I didn't get the job done."
Assistant coach Jeff Vines will serve in the interim as Plano seeks a new head coach.
"We have appreciated coach Parlin's leadership in the basketball program at Plano Senior High and we know he has made a difference to a number of our athletes," said Gerald Brence, Plano ISD athletic director. "We are certain coach Parlin will continue to have an impact on students in our district, as he is an excellent educator."
The Wildcats won just one district game each of the last two seasons.
The 1-13 district finish in 2011-12 set the stage for Thursday's events as Parlin was given a goal sheet (common for Plano ISD coaches whose teams have struggled) at the completion of last season.
"There wasn't anything concrete on there about wins or losses, but it listed the improvements that had to be made and I accepted that," Parlin said. "And really it opened my eyes to some areas where I needed to improve and where I might have become complacent.
"And I can say I did everything above and beyond what was on that sheet."
Primary among the things to fix was his demeanor on the court.
"There was this untrue perception of what I was like off the court because of how I was on the court," Parlin said. "So I tried to change that and feel like I made great strides this season in dealing with coaches and officials."
Those strides carried over to the team with a better overall record (12-20) in 2012-13. The district win count remained at one though with four of the Wildcats' nine district losses coming by seven points or less, including a 50-49 defeat against Plano East in the 10-5A opener. The Panthers went undefeated in district and won every other game by at least eight points.
"We played in some unbelievable districts," Parlin said. "We were with Flower Mound Marcus the last couple years (2010-11, 2011-12) when they won state and then East is a good bet to win its region this season, so obviously that makes it tough."
Thursday's decision wasn't just the end of a five-year head coaching career, it likely marks the end of a 23-year PISD run for Parlin.
"When I applied in 1990, I was thinking 'there's no way,'" Parlin said. "But I got the opportunity and I've been so privileged to be in this community and fine school district."
Parlin worked for three years at Schimelpfenig Middle School and six at Vines High School before being hired as the Plano JV coach and varsity assistant. Parlin's nine-year run in that position included a 2005-06 season in which the Wildcats defeated Humble Kingwood, 60-58, for the Class 5A State Championship. Parlin took the reigns of the program less than three years later after the termination of Tom Inman's contract.
"That was kind of a tough deal taking over like that for Tom, who is one of a kind," Parlin said. "I love him for everything he has done for me and my family."
Parlin's first season as head coach was notable. Not just because the team made one of its two playoff appearances (2010-11) during his five-year tenure, but because Parlin got to coach his son Clayton, who played varsity for three seasons.
"That was one of the greatest experiences of my career," Parlin said. "I'm so glad I got to coach my son and I'm so glad I got to do it here at Plano."
Parlin broke the news to his most recent class of players Thursday.
"I told the guys to, 'work hard for the new coach and I'll be cheering for you,'" he said. "Then I got hugs from all the guys in the locker room; it was one of those priceless moments that I'll never forget."
Parlin could stay beyond this year as a teacher in PISD, but that appears unlikely.
"In my soul, I believe God wants me to be a coach," he said. "It's going to be extremely difficult to do that elsewhere, but I am so appreciative of the opportunity [former Plano principal Dr. Doyle Dean] and Brence gave me five years ago."
Even if that opportunity didn't end how he had hoped.
"We didn't win as many games as we wanted," Parlin said. "There is a legacy of so many great players that have come through this program and I feel like I let them down. You don't get many opportunities at your dream job; and while I feel like I let this slip through my fingers, I am so incredibly honored to say I was the head coach at Plano."