South Tahoe High fires baseball coach
One of the winningest coaches in South Tahoe High baseball history was let go Thursday.
Matt Tillson coached the Vikings to a school-record 13 victories two times during his five seasons as the team’s manager. Tillson was told by a STHS administrator that he was being removed from the position because of his run-ins with umpires.
Tillson said he was thrown out of four games during his career – the last being the league opener March 20 at Carson High.
In addition to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s mandatory one-game suspension for being tossed from a game, Tillson received an additional two-game suspension from the school.
The firing caught Tillson by surprise and left him upset. He said the support from the baseball community helped him through a difficult day.
“Numerous parents and players have supported me. The community and everyone is backing me up. They know I’m in it for the kids,” Tillson said. “All my seniors texted me and said they’d do anything that they could to fight for my job. The support I’ve had today, it’s helped.”
Tillson was warned not to get thrown out of another game following the incident in Carson City. South Tahoe High Athletic Director Don Borges declined to go into the specifics of Tillson’s dismissal.
“I cannot make statements about the baseball position at South Tahoe High School at this time. This is a personnel issue,” Borges said in an e-mail response to the Tribune.
Tillson’s 2009 team finished with an 8-24 overall record, including 2-16 in the Northern 4A League’s Sierra Division.
In addition to his baseball post, Tillson gave back to the baseball community in a variety of ways. He conducted Little League clinics and baseball camps and coached a local summer team.
“He has devoted so much time and energy into the boys. He was always there for the kids if they needed something,” said Dan Holmgren, whose son Derek played three seasons for Tillson.
Derek, an second-team all-league second baseman, said he was stunned by the news about Tillson.
“When I got the text message from him, I didn’t understand it,” Derek Holmgren said. “He’s the only baseball coach’s I’ve had. He’s obviously taught me enough to play baseball at the college level.”
Holmgren is planning to try out for Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
“We built a relationship. Our whole team could talk to Tillson about anything. He came off as a father figure more than anything,” Derek Holmgren said.
With an official statement concerning Tillson’s dismissal missing Thursday, there was some conjecture in the baseball community that he was let go because of his handling of junior shortstop Otto Trebotich. Trebotich, a first-team all-leaguer as a freshman and sophomore, was kicked off the team early in the season for not following team rules and will play at Douglas High next year.
“Otto was sad about not playing with his friends, and they had a great team and great chance to play good baseball together,” said Neal Trebotich, Otto’s dad. “Instead it got torn apart, and everybody went through highs and lows. There were no winners. Part of being a good coach is being able to handle different personalities.”
It’s undetermined if Tillson’s firing contradicts a new Lake Tahoe Unified School District policy for reviewing coaches. School board members recently passed a policy that empowers STHS to reopen a coaching position when administrators are unhappy with the performance of a coach, but gives that coach a chance to reapply for their position.
That opportunity apparently wasn’t afforded to Tillson on Thursday. Tillson said his meeting at the school began with administrator Jack Stafford telling him, “Matt, we have to look elsewhere for a coach next year.”
Tillson said he would comment more about his dismissal at a later date.
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