In a surprise move, Winder-Barrow High School varsity boys basketball coach Eli Connell stepped down from his position as Bulldogg mentor Tuesday.

Connell, who has posted six winning seasons in as many years as WBHS head coach, said he does not have a head basketball coaching job lined up for next season and at this point is willing to not coach basketball for a year. Connell has been at WBHS for nine years and was the program’s top assistant for three years before becoming its head coach.

“I feel good about what we’ve done,” Connell said of the program which just won the subregion title. “We’ve done good things basketball-wise and in the classroom. I am simply ready for a change.”

The Bulldoggs were upset in the quarterfinals of the Region 8-AAAA tournament recently and the loss weighed heavily on Connell. He said Wednesday night he was not pressured into resigning.

“I don’t have any ill feeling toward anyone at Winder-Barrow,” Connell said. “However, when you know it’s time for a change, you just know it’s time.”

Connell has only submitted his resignation as head basketball coach. He will continue in his role as a math teacher at WBHS and as the varsity boys golf coach this spring. He did not rule out the possibility of returning to WBHS for the 2009-10 school year as a teacher and golf coach.

“As soon as I realized what I wanted to do (about basketball), I went ahead and did it,” Connell told the Barrow Journal. “This will help Winder-Barrow. I didn’t want to drag it out and make a fuss or a mess. I feel good about this. It will free my mind to pursue my next path.”

It was not an easy decision to give up coaching the Bulldogg basketball program, Connell admitted.

“I love basketball,” he said. “It is a major part of my life. I definitely would be interested in the right opportunity. I would not just take any job, however. If I was worried about having a basketball job, I would not have resigned here. I felt comfortable about not coaching if that ended up being the case.”

While the recent season ended on a sour note, Connell said once he reflected on it, there were still plenty of positives.

“A lot of times you make a change after a bad season,” he said. “However, the program is in good shape. I think they will get a good coach.”

Connell had a winning season in each of his six years as head coach.

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