Gotcher gone! Fickle fans get their wish -- Tiger coach makes sudden move to Scranton

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Green Forest Lady Tiger head basketball coach Mike Gotcher is gone, off to the greener pastures at Scranton, where the Lady Rockets went 33-7 last year and made it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

"This came along and doors opened," Coach Gotcher said in a telephone interview on Wednesday from Scranton, near Paris, where he was attending inservice meetings at his new school.

"The job just opened up, and I interviewed on Wednesday, Aug. 6, and resigned at Green Forest the next day," Gotcher said. "They love basketball down here. I talked with friends I have from this area and they said great things about the school and program."

Green Forest superintendent Dr. Larry Bennett said Wednesday, "Mike brought in his resignation last week. He had been looking for a change, a different opportunity at a smaller school that just had basketball. We're expanding here.

"When he asked if he could be released from his contract, I said yes, if that was what he wanted to do. Coach Gotcher is a nice guy, but the program was down and we needed a change."

Even after several years of hassles from fans, the decision to leave Green Forest, where Gotcher had coached the last four years, was a difficult one.

"It was a hard decision," Gotcher confirmed. "It was a lot harder than I expected. I've got a lot of good friends in Green Forest, and I've enjoyed working with the coaches and teachers, being around the guys.

"I hated I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to friends, and the players, but I had to make a quick decision and get here for inservice duties.

"The only reason I made the decision was to help my career," Gotcher continued, "and because at Green Forest, we weren't getting to practice as much as the other teams in the conference, which was not fair to our kids."

Gotcher said the Lady Rockets were 33-7 last year, with most of the players back, and that the junior high girls were 25-5.

"They've won for years," Gotcher said about the Class A school that plays in the A4 conference. "But they play up, against bigger schools, like Ozark, Clarksville, Paris, and even Bergman.

"We are scheduled to play in the Greenwood tournament this year, against 3A and 4A teams. Last year, the Scranton girls beat Fayetteville in that tournament, and beat Clarksville by 30 during the year.

"I've seen them play," Gotcher said about his new team. "The kids work hard and are always in the gym. That's exciting. They have a good chance to be successful this year.

"We didn't have that chance at Green Forest because we couldn't practice as much as the other league teams," he said. "Our hands were tied. The other 1AAA conference schools are practicing basketball every day from day one. Other schools do volleyball and basketball practices every day, but we couldn't. That's hard on the kids when the season rolls around.

"Green Forest is at a disadvantage on practice time, and because of overloaded class periods in the gyms. There could be as many as 250 kids at one time in there," Gotcher said.

His exit leaves Jim Goins as the lone girls basketball coach at this time, just after the administration and school board approved two people for the first time in years.

"Jim is a great coach, and he will do well," Gotcher said. "I was looking forward to working with him. He's been successful, and will be great. I also want to thank all the coaches I worked with, and athletics director Bill Gotto.

"Coach Gotto was great to me. He's a good AD who is interested in every program at Green Forest."

Gotcher will live in Paris and drive the 15 miles to Scranton during the school week, and come back to his home in Harrison on the weekends. His wife teaches at Bergman and will stay at the home.

So who will be Gotcher's new roommate at Paris?

Why, former Green Forest assistant principal Gary Montgomery, who left Green Forest to take the principal's job at Paris several years ago.

"We'll have to sacrifice for a year," Gotcher said about being apart from his wife. But there is a silver lining. Both his daughters attend Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, just a short 45 minutes down the road from Scranton.

His youngest daughter, Brittany, graduated from Green Forest this past May and will attend ATU this fall on an academic scholarship. Dad and daughters will be able to connect at ball games.

The Green Forest situation is behind him, and he's excited about his new school and team, and their winning tradition. It was a hard choice, but Coach Mike Gotcher has landed on his feet and is ready to start a new page in his career ---- even if he still misses Tiger players and friends.

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