Competitive and loyal and accountable. Jim Donmoyer is an old-school coach.
Perhaps, old-school is going out of style.
On Monday, March 16, the Cornwall-Lebanon School District accepted Donmoyer’s letter of resignation as the head coach of the Cedar Crest girls’ basketball program.
Donmoyer acknowledges penning the letter, but only doing so after being told that his position was being ‘opened up’. Cedar Crest Athletic Director Chris Groff says the position was opened up after Donmoyer submitted his letter of resignation.
More than one of semantics or timing, it is a question of whether Donmoyer was fired or resigned.
“I resigned after they basically decided to open the position,” said Donmoyer. “They told me, ‘You can re-apply if you want.’ All coaches are rehired on a yearly basis. For the eight years prior, they never asked me to re-apply for the position. For eight years, I didn’t have any issues. I believe it was political.
“I could’ve re-applied for it,” added Donmoyer. “But I’m not a fool.”
“His position was only opened up after his resignation was accepted,” said Groff. “When his resignation was approved, his position was open. We received a letter of resignation. Anything related to personnel, I’ve got to keep confidential.”
During the recent 2019-20, Cedar Crest went 11-11 overall and 8-5 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. The Falcons did not qualify for the L-L League postseason or the District Three Class AAAAAA playoffs.
In some people’s estimations, the Falcons under-achieved, after graduating six seniors from a squad which captured a Section One crown the year before. Donmoyer said that after this season was completed a number of his current players went to Groff to complain.
“Someone had an agenda,” said Donmoyer. “He (Groff) told me he had three kids come to him within a week after the season was over, blowing off steam. Then three weeks later, he said he had more kids come to him and he told me, ‘we have a problem.’ Not everyone wanted me gone.
“I had total control of the program,” continued Donmoyer. “Some people didn’t like it. I was firm, but I was fair with the kids. Some people can’t deal with it. People made some noise, and here we are. Neither of my assistants (Scott Laicha and Chelsey Lutz) was spoken to by the A.D.”
Groff would neither confirm or deny that an after-season meeting with players occurred, saying only: “It falls under personnel. I can only speak to what’s on the public record.”
After taking over for Gretchen Hall in the early 2010’s, Donmoyer, who’s a bit rough around the edges, sometimes outspoken and demanding, helped resurrect a Cedar Crest girls’ basketball program that had previously experienced difficult times. Further honing talent that had been developed on the junior high and elementary levels, Donmoyer was the Falcons’ head coach for nine seasons and Cedar Crest won a total of three Section One championships, two Lancaster-Lebanon League titles, qualified for the District Three postseason seven times and advanced to the state playoffs five times.
“I’m old school,” said Donmoyer. “I’ve been old school for nine years. I’m competitive. I’m disciplined. I hold them (his players) accountable. Times have changed. Old-school coaches can’t coach new-school kids.
“We had enough talent (in 2019-20),” Donmoyer continued. “We should’ve been better than .500. I don’t play the game. We didn’t make drastic changes. Our 11-11 was earned. We should’ve been in the league playoffs. We should’ve been in districts. I had less fun this year than I’ve ever had coaching. This year was the worst. Maybe they did me a favor.”
“I think maybe from Coach’s perspective, he had high expectations for this year,” said Groff, who’s in his first year as Cedar Crest’s athletic director. “He’s had a lot of success. I watched our girls play and they played hard. In terms of expectations, they met them. You have to throw records out sometimes. You have to ask yourself, ‘Are they playing hard? Are they playing the right way?’ Our girls did that this season.”
During Donmoyer’s tenure, Cedar Crest went a combined 151-82. Over his first two years, the Falcons were 14-31, this season they were 11-11 and in the six years in between, they went 126-40.
In 2016-17, Donmoyer’s Falcons won their first 26 games on their way to Section One and L-L League championships.
“It’s in better shape than the way I found it,” said Donmoyer of the program. “We did some good things. I had an opportunity to coach both of my kids. Who could ask for anything more? There are a lot of things I’m thankful for.
“I was an assistant with Gretchen Hall, I applied for the job and they hired me,” Donmoyer added. “It’s not like I didn’t put any time in. I’m kind of relieved, just from the standpoint of time. This isn’t all bad. It’s not about, ‘Can I coach?’ It’s not about, ‘Were we successful?'”
“It’s hard for me to say what old-school is,” said Groff, a one-time head baseball coach at Cedar Crest. ” ‘Old-school’ is ultimately different for all people. I was raised by some good coaches. You can look at it in so many different ways.”
Maybe the most disappointing thing for Donmoyer isn’t that he’s stepping away from coaching the game he loves, but that he’s not doing it on his own terms. He might feel he’s earned that right.
“I’ll always cherish those nine years,” said Donmoyer, who’s the Executive Director of the Lebanon County Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. “I had a good time. I had a lot of good players. The way it ended was not good. When someone doesn’t want you in a position there’s not much you can do.
“I will never step foot in that gym again,” continued Donmoyer. “I love basketball. I’m not going to lose my love for basketball.”
“His resignation was approved,” said Groff. “We’re super appreciative of all the time he put into the program. That’s where we are.”
The process of finding Donmoyer’s replacement is already underway. While like anything in the local sports world, the process is being slowed by the presence of the coronavirus, but Groff is seeking to make the transition as smooth as possible.
“I hope people know about it,” said Groff. “We’re in the process of accepting applications. I’ll get it out to other athletic directors and make it known we have an open position.
“I think we’re in a good place,” added Groff. “Basketball is doing well in our district. We have a lot of girls playing basketball. We have a lot of good coaches in place.”
“I bet I could pick the next coach,” said Donmoyer. “I don’t care who they get. Coach Laicha is out and Coach Lutz is out. I was told, ‘We want to see what else is out there?'”