Litherland steps away to focus on family

File Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Forest Park boys basketball head coach Jeff Litherland has stepped away from his post after five and a half seasons of leading the Rangers varsity squad. It was a tough decision for Litherland, who is coming off of a state finals appearance, but ultimately it came down to being able to spend more time with his family as well as focus on his job with Quality Mill Supply.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

Another area boys basketball team will have a new head coach next season as Jeff Litherland has resigned from his post as the varsity boys basketball coach at Forest Park after five and a half seasons leading the Ranger squad.

Litherland, who took over as Forest Park’s head coach following Nate Hawkins mid-season resignation in 2013, compiled a 93-46 record during his tenure as varsity head coach with the Rangers and helped lead Forest Park to two sectional titles, one regional championship, one semistate championship and a state finals appearance in 2018.

While there were several factors that played a part in Litherland’s decision to step away from basketball, family was the biggest one.

“Basketball always came first for me for the past nine years and there were a lot of times I put it in front of my kids, my family and my work,” Litherland said. “I didn’t get to go to any of my sons T-Ball games and I missed a lot of my daughter’s softball tournaments so it was just one of those things where I felt the time was right to step away. I’ve had a great run at Forest Park and with other things going on outside of my life of basketball with three kids and a full-time job, it was almost overwhelming at times.”

Litherland currently works as the Southwest Regional Sales Manager at the Ferdinand branch of Quality Mill Supply Company where he oversees a region that stretches from Terre Haute to Henderson, Kentucky. There were many times where he’d work nearly 60 to 70 hours a week during basketball season and he’d often have to cut work short in order to tend to basketball responsibilities.

Even though the decision wasn’t fully decided upon until early Thursday morning, this is something that’s been on the back of Litherland’s mind for awhile.

“It’s funny because I kind of joked to my seniors last year about how if we won a state championship then maybe I’d retire but that was early in the season and then we actually did make it to the championship game,” Litherland said with a laugh. “I came close to telling (Forest Park) in June but it was kind of at a point where I didn’t want to put them in a bind but now it’s August and it’s even later. We have a lot of good players and our coaches on our staff are really qualified, I just felt like it was the right time to step away.”

Litherland, 43, graduated from Perry Central High School in 1993 where he was a four-year member of the Commodores boys basketball and baseball teams. His first coaching stint came at Perry Central where he was a volunteer coach with the third and fourth graders in the Rising Stars program.

At the high school level, Litherland worked under Hall of Fame coach Marty Echelbarger as an eighth-grade coach and varsity assistant at Heritage Hills before going back to Perry Central to become the Commodores junior varsity head coach. Litherland joined the Forest Park staff in 2010 as the team’s JV coach under Nate Hawkins and later worked his way up to an assistant role on the varsity staff before taking over as head coach once Hawkins stepped away.

While there’s a lot of on the court memories that Litherland will have of his time as head coach at Forest Park such as taking the team to a state finals appearance and leading them to back-to-back sectional titles, some of his favorites are the friendships that he made off of the court.

Forest Park head coach Jeff Litherland talked to his son, Myles, 5, after last season's regional championship victory over Austin in Paoli. Spending time with his three young kids was one of the main reasons why Litherland decided to step away from basketball.

“Just the friendships and relationships I’ve had with players and people that have been close to the program, some of my former players and their parents have become some of my best friends,” Litherland said. “Some of the texts that I got from former players kind of brought tears to my eyes. Forest Park is a great place and a great school with a great administration, I consider Doug Louden the best athletic director I’ve ever had — he made sure we always had anything we could’ve ever needed.”

Even though he’s stepping away from his position as head coach, Litherland assures he won’t be leaving Ferdinand as his three kids are enrolled in the Southeast Dubois School Corporation and his office is located in the town as well. He’s even offered to lend a hand with the basketball team if he’s ever asked and he’s available.

“I’ll help out anyway that I can — I told them that whatever they need, I’m willing to help them out. All of the coaches on the staff are really good friends of mine,” Litherland said.

Who knows? Maybe even someday he’ll find himself leading a team from the sidelines once again.

“Who’s to say that down the road when my kids are older I won’t get into coaching again whether it’s as an assistant or even helping out with the younger levels,” Litherland said. “Basketball has been a part of my life for 27 years so it was a very tough decision — it just felt like the time was right.”




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