Copperas Cove lost its girls basketball coach.
The Lady Bulldawgs lost much more than that, though.
Teresa Durham surprisingly resigned as head coach last Friday after guiding Copperas Cove to a second-place finish in District 8-5A in her second season at the helm of the program.
Following a two-year absence from the postseason, the Lady Dawgs’ 2012-13 season ended in disappointing fashion after a fourth-quarter rally fell one point short against Cedar Hill in the opening round of the playoffs.
Despite the heartbreaking, bi-district loss, it appeared the season was a success.
The team flourished in the midst of chaos as practice and game schedules were thrown for loops when a series of bomb threats disrupted Copperas Cove campuses during December. Playing in a district with two state-ranked programs, the Lady Dawgs (24-10, 11-3) were the district runners-up, beating then-No. 13 Temple 53-42 in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
With nine players set to return, including three starters, it appeared the program was heading in the right direction, but, according to Durham, it was slipping away from her.
“My goal has always been to build a championship program from the ground up,” said Durham, who won the 2006 Class 3A title with China Spring. “You can do that when you get to be in control and you get to make decisions, both good and bad. Sometimes, when those rules change or expectations from different parts of the community changes then it becomes not a good fit.
“When your goals don’t quite mesh then it is time to pick where you can go do that, and now is probably the time for that change, so I’m looking for a job.”
Durham’s departure was both sudden and unexpected. It made little sense and leaves one wondering exactly what external forces, if any, played a role in her resignation.
Regardless of reasoning, neither Durham nor Copperas Cove ISD is the victim here.
Durham is a proven coach with an excellent track record, and she will land on her feet somewhere. Similarly, no single person is larger than CCISD, and the Lady Dawgs will undoubtedly return to the court in November. It most likely will not be under someone as established or as decorated as Durham, but, nevertheless, the program, which is searching for its fourth head coach in six seasons, will march on.
The real disappointment stemming from the politics of high school coaching is the players being forced to start over from scratch under a new coach with new expectations, philosophies and approaches to the game.
For players who joined the program as freshmen, this will be the third head coach of their high school careers. Not only is it difficult to consistently win under such circumstances, it is difficult to even function as a team.
It takes time for kids to adjust to change, especially when it comes to authority figures. The locker-room dynamic transforms, and the on-court product is inevitably altered. The team’s collective psyche is hesitantly skewed to accommodate a brand new vision.
The players lost more than a head coach when Durham resigned; they lost their confidant, their leader, their shared voice and their identity, along with stability, trust and comfort.
New coaches can instill new life into programs, but struggles on the court often accompany the adjustment period, and replacing a winning coach only makes life more difficult as high hopes are already established.
Whoever steps into the role has large shoes to fill.
The bright side of all of this is the Lady Dawgs will begin next season knowing how to win. Every returning player will remember how she helped revive Copperas Cove’s name and the pride and dedication that accompanied the feat.
While it takes time for players to adjust, eventually, they will.
Losing Durham is not the end-all for Copperas Cove. It is merely a setback, but if the former Lady Dawgs head coach is to be believed, it is an unnecessary one, and that is the true injustice.
In general, athletes should have strong bonds with their coaches and vice versa, but those bonds can rarely be forged under such circumstances. It takes an established, symbiotic relationship between the two parties to create a harmonious program and a life-altering experience for all involved.
Unfortunately for some of the Lady Dawgs, the high turnover ratio at Copperas Cove is robbing them of that.