The longtime Avon boys basketball coach resigned Tuesday, saying he felt like it was the right time in his life to say goodbye to the sport.
“For 31 years I’ve taught and coached,” Baker said. “I kind of knew before this season that it might be my last year. I still love basketball, I’m just not a big fan of April open gyms, then May, June … it’s really become a 12-month job.
“If you want to do it the right way, that’s what has to be done.”
Baker’s spent the last 12 years heading the Eagles program, leading the team to a district championship in 2003 and earning Lorain County’s Coach of the Year award last season. He spent 15 years as an assistant at Lexington High — the Minutemen won Division II state titles in 1989 and ’91 — and was the Richland County school’s head soccer coach for 13 years.
Avon athletic director Erich Frombach said it won’t be easy finding a replacement for Baker.
“He’s everything that’s right as far as being a role model for the kids,” Frombach said. “I know he’s always going to do the right thing. It’s hard to find a coach like that. When you do, you want to keep them forever.”
The yearlong grind over the past few decades may have made Baker feel like he’s already been coaching forever, although he said he didn’t decide to step down because he feels burned out. He just felt like he had reached the point in his life where he would like to try some new things, or at least have the option to try new things.
“I talked to my wife (about resigning) … she didn’t believe me,” he said. “But I told her that it was going to be nice to be free to do what we want to do.”
Baker said he plans on teaching one more year before retiring, and the couple just recently began enjoying the benefits of an “empty nest.”
“All the kids are out of the house,” he said. “Both of my boys graduated from Kent State and our daughter is a freshman at Kent State.
“We’re going to Virginia Beach in June. I haven’t had a chance to take a vacation in June since I started coaching.”
Baker doesn’t expect walking away from a lifelong love will be easy. He said he figures he’ll feel the competitive itch as next season draws near, and that he’ll especially miss game nights. He also doesn’t rule out a return to basketball, but, “not in a head-coaching capacity … maybe as an assistant after a period of time.”
Baker said he feels fortunate he’s been able to do something he loved for most of his life, and he’s been able to do it in a school district like Avon.
“Right now, I’m content with the decision I’ve made,” Baker said. “I feel I’m leaving on my terms and I feel I’m leaving the program in good shape. We kind of turned the program around. We averaged 13 wins a season over the last five years and had a 60 percent winning percentage.
“My only disappointment is we didn’t win enough championships.”
Baker expects those championships will come under a new coach and the Eagles will continue to thrive on the foundation he helped build. He also believes his resignation won’t be the hit to the program that some might think.
“As far as I’m concerned, Avon just picked up another fan is all,” he said.