Following the most successful season in school history, Kevin Meines has resigned as the coach of the Bellarmine Prep girls basketball team.
He said he informed his players Wednesday night that he was leaving to focus on improving his health and his new position as dean of students and activities director at Bellarmine.
Meines suffered a stroke a little more than a year ago while walking on campus.
“This is probably the hardest thing career-wise I’ve had to do,” Meines said. “I feel like I’m letting them down walking away.
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All but two of his players are slated to return next year, including two-time league MVP Shalyse Smith, who is committed to the University of Arizona.
Meines led the program to the final four for the first time this past season. The Lions lost to eventual 4A state champion Kentridge in the state semifinals after having beaten the Chargers in the district tournament.
“Knowing what we have coming back next year, I truly believe this is a team capable of winning the state title. That’s tough to walk away from,” Meines said. “But more than that I just love being around these kids.
“Telling them last night, that was one of the toughest conversations I’ve ever had to have.”
He built Bellarmine into the best girls basketball program in Tacoma in his 14 years there – including outright league titles in eight of the past 10 years, including this year in the Lions’ inaugural season in the 4A SPSL. The two years Bellarmine didn’t win the league title outright, they tied for it.
Bellarmine has reached the postseason 12 consecutive seasons.
“Being 14 years there, that’s a long tenure,” Bellarmine athletic director Ed Ploof said. “He brought the program stability, he brought passion – not just for basketball, but passion for education for his girls. He was obviously a successful coach and he was really successful at building relationships.”
Meines’ first season – the team was 7-13.
He had just come off of being an assistant coach at Kentlake under best friend and current Auburn Mountainview athletic director Chris Carr after graduating from Auburn High School, where Meines played basketball as a 6-foot-2 post.
It was easy to notice’s Meines’ fiery, booming voice from the sideline as a coach – which was (slightly) more subdued after his stroke.
“There were still times the old coach came out,” Meines joked.
But not as visible was Meines’ ability to build relationships with his players. He attended the first birthday party of the child of one his former players on Sunday.
Meines’ daughter, Molly was a water girl on his first team and was a senior on this year’s team.
Bellarmine reached the state tournament nine times since the 2005-06 season and had its highest finish in school history this season when it earned third place with an overtime victory against Moses Lake. And that came two games after stunning Central Valley in the state quarterfinals with a 56-55 victory, ending the Bears’ 52-game win streak.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is I know that I’m leaving the program in much better shape than when I found it,” Meines said. “I’m very protective of this program. I spent a lot of my career building this into something that I can be proud of and the school can be proud of.
“And I assured them I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here to help as much as whoever takes over needs.”
Ploof said they did not have a set date on when they’d like to have Meines’ replacement by.
“We’ll be looking for someone who will be well-versed in their craft, is passionate about their craft and passionate about kids,” Ploof said.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677