Given their recent extended success, especially in the state playoffs, the sudden resignation of two Bellarmine Prep coaches would seem to be ill-timed.
For Tom Larsen and Jody DeGroot, the timing could not be more perfect.
Larsen, the Lions’ football coach, and DeGroot, the coach of the three-time defending Class 4A championship volleyball team at Bellarmine Prep, both stepped down from their positions last week.
Larsen, a 1974 Bellarmine Prep graduate, went 90-44 in his 12 seasons. The Lions are the only 4A team in the state to have won at least one state playoff game in each of the past five seasons — reaching the state semifinals in 2010 and 2013, and playing for the state title against Skyline in 2012.
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“I went into this job with the anticipation of maybe doing this for three or possibly four years,” Larsen said. “But I got into a flow with my duties … I was having too much fun.”
The past couple years, Larsen admitted he had thought about resigning to spend more time with his family. He is a grandfather now.
But he also wanted to make sure the program was in the capable hands of a successor on campus. And it is – fourth-year offensive coordinator Brian Jensen, the former Curtis High School and Central Washington quarterback, has been promoted to his first head coach job.
Larsen informed his players in a team meeting last week about his resignation. His last day will be the Lions’ upcoming team banquet.
“There were a lot of tears,” Larsen said. “We’ve always had great kids.”
DeGroot, also a Bellarmine Prep graduate (1983), started as a Lions volleyball assistant in 1999, and was promoted three years later after former coach Dottie Harris resigned.
In 13 seasons, DeGroot led the Lions to seven 4A Narrows League titles. They have reached the state tournament 10 times.
In the past four seasons, which includes winning the past three 4A crowns, Bellarmine Prep has posted a 122-8 record.
DeGroot (2012-14), Mead’s Judy Kight (2003-07), Kentlake’s Drew Terry (2000-02) and Renton’s John Littleman (1980-82) are the only coaches of 4A programs to win three or more state championships in a row.
“I’ve realized there is never a right time,” said DeGroot, the American Volleyball Coaches Association high school coach of the year in 2012. “Either you are always in this moment of having great athletes, or the program being strong.”
Caroline Meines, DeGroot’s top assistant, will take over the program immediately.
“I am proud of what this program has become, and what it is,” said DeGroot, who said she plans to follow the college careers of her children, Katy (volleyball at Carroll College) and Ryan (soccer at University of Washington).
“I just know it will continue to be a good program.”
Also, Lions softball coach Craig Coovert stepped down after eight seasons. He led Bellarmine Prep to its first 4A Narrows title in 2012. John McMasters will lead the program in the spring.