Interim tag cut, Litherland now coach

Matthew Busch/The Herald
Forest Park head coach Jeff Litherland, right, had the interim tag removed from his title Wednesday and will remain head coach. He finished 5-5 last season after former coach Nate Hawkins resigned.

By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

At Wednesday’s Southeast Dubois School Board meeting, Forest Park boys basketball coach Jeff Litherland had the interim tag removed from his title and will remain head coach.

Litherland

Litherland finished 5-5 last season after former coach Nate Hawkins resigned in the middle of January, citing personal reasons.

“To have the interim title removed is something I’ve worked (toward) for a long time and I’m very happy and fortunate to be at a great school like Forest Park,” said Litherland, who added that the JV coach is yet to be determined, though it’s likely that Phil Winkler will remain in that capacity after filling that role with Litherland’s midseason promotion.

Nobody told Litherland until Wednesday that he was the frontrunner for the position or that anything was definite. But he didn’t change his approach, completing the summer schedule for the JV and varsity teams and continuing individual workouts.

“There’s always rumors flying around, but I felt like I hadn’t done anything to rule myself out,” said Litherland, 37.

“I feel like I turned the season around.”

Forest Park started the season 3-9 before Litherland took over. And although the Rangers finished with their first losing record since 1997-98, they were competitive the second half of the season. Not counting a 23-point setback to Jasper in Litherland’s debut, Forest Park’s other four losses came by a combined 21 points.

Citing the way the Rangers played for Litherland, Forest Park athletic director Doug Louden said it was obvious to him Litherland should remain as the head coach. Louden said the school received some interest for the position through a handful of emails and phone calls but added the school didn’t formally open  the job search since high school Principal Jeff Jessee agreed with Louden’s feeling toward Litherland.

“We really felt that with the way the Rangers ended the season — we don’t just look at the record, we really think the kids played hard for him — we were really happy with the way the program went toward the end of the season and felt very strongly he was the right man for the job,” Louden said.

“We pretty much knew who we wanted from the get-go.”

This is the first head coaching position for Litherland, a 1993 Perry Central High School graduate who’s a sales manager for Louisville Mill Supply, an industrial supply company. Litherland works at a branch office in Ferdinand and Louden said essentially the only concern was whether Litherland could balance that responsibility with all the summer workouts and other duties he’d need to address as coach. No problem. Litherland expressed his interest in staying, and if anything, there may not be that much of a separation. Many of his clients are fans of the Rangers, Litherland said, and added he’s received plenty of positive comments from people in the community.

He noted he didn’t know anyone when he arrived from a rival school four years ago when he was named Forest Park’s JV coach. A lot’s changed since then.

“The community is 100 percent behind me,” Litherland said.

“It’s a great fit and I try to be fair to everyone, and they’ve shown great support to me for the four years I’ve been here.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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