A posted comment following the online version of the published story of Jason Baker’s hiring as Austintown Fitch High boys basketball coach simply said: “Good luck! You’ll need it.”
That posting was 1 year and 10 months ago.
The sarcastic comment under the May 2009 story was also true, considering that Baker was taking over a program that had gone 3-18 the previous year.
Since that time, Baker’s teams went 1-20 and 5-16 and, recently, he submitted his resignation, Superintendent Vince Colaluca confirmed Tuesday evening.
“He did a nice job for us, but made the decision not to be coach,” Colaluca said of Baker, who will remain in the Austintown system as an elementary physical education teacher.
“That’s pretty normal protocol: coaches in and out,” said Colaluca, noting that the resignation was within the last few days and of Baker’s own accord.
“I’m proud of what was accomplished in the last two years and the progress that was made this past season,” Baker, 35, said when contacted Tuesday night. “Now it’s time for my career to take a different turn.”
The superintendent said that a notice for the vacancy will be posted and the formation of an interview committee will launch the search process.
“We’ll try to resolve it [new hiring] as soon as possible since the kids are now allowed strength and conditioning,” Colaluca said of the permissible period of coach contact 30 days after the team’s last game. “We don’t want them to get behind, so we’ll move very quickly.”
Despite his administrative inclination, Colaluca was sympathetic toward Baker.
“He did a nice job with the kids,” the superintendent said. “The program wasn’t in disarray because had we good a coach before [Roger Day] who went into administration. Jason did a nice job and chose to go in a different direction.”
When Fitch hired Baker, he had been head boys coach at Heath High School, near Newark in Licking County, east of Columbus.
Heath’s boys basketball program was Division III.
Baker began his coaching career at Solon High School in 2002-03, where he served as head basketball scout.
He also coached girls golf at Heath in 2005-06, and was assistant baseball coach there in 2004-05.
At the time he was hired at Fitch, Baker was one of 27 applicants for the Falcons’ head coaching position.
Both Day, who was 11-74 in four seasons as the Falcons’ head coach, and Baker struggled in the Federal League during their tenures. Baker’s Falcon teams did not win a game in the league in his two seasons.
Fitch leaves the Federal League after the current school year and will begin play in the All-American Conference for all sports except football in 2011-12.