Former Meade girls basketball coach Phil Popielski said a five-game suspension that school administrators gave him following an ejection from a game was just one of several issues that prompted his resignation two weeks ago, just four games into the season.
Anne Arundel County policy states that an ejection brings with it an automatic one-game suspension, but administrators at the school hold the right to extend the ban. Popielski was called for three technical fouls in the game, a 66-49 win over Southern last month.
"The suspension wasn't as big a thing as it was made out to be," Popielski said, referring to an Annapolis Capital article that quoted him as saying that the suspension "seemed to make it a good time to go."
Popielski said he will become a volunteer assistant coach for the Maryland-Baltimore County women's team.
The suspension "wasn't a major reason. There had been a lot of things both personally and professionally that didn't feel the way they should have felt."
Popielski, who compiled an 83-49 record in five-plus seasons at the school, had his doubts about coming back this year and considered resigning before the season began. He told his assistants that this would likely be his final season as head coach. Assistant Royal Webster took over after Popielski stepped down.
"I broke every rule that my mom and dad instilled in me when I quit," said Popielski, who led the Mustangs to a 22-5 record last season and a No. 14 ranking that included their first appearance in the Maryland state semifinals in 20 years. "I told the girls that this goes against every rule I believe in and I'm sorry."
Wootten Keeps on Rolling
One coach not on the move is DeMatha's Morgan Wootten, who entered his sixth decade of coaching high school basketball last night when the No. 2 Stags improved to 12-1 with a 69-47 win at Bladensburg. Wootten, 68, began his career at DeMatha in 1956.
"Back when I started coaching in the 1950s, I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be coaching for this long," Wootten said. "It's special to be able to do this for as long as I have. And I'll continue to coach as long as it's fun and as long as my health holds out. The kids really keep me energized. We've got a great group this year."
Wootten, who has amassed more victories than any other high school coach, is three wins from 1,200.
Staff writer Tarik El-Bashir contributed to this report.