WHS became winners under Tolbert
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
His eyes were red, and some of the frustration from a 45-34 regional playoff defeat to Hawthorne was still resonating inside Nathan Tolbert.
Only minutes into the postgame interview, Tolbert announced on Tuesday that he wouldn’t return as the Whittell High girls’ basketball coach.
“It’s frustrating. We’ve played through adversity all year long. There have been injuries, family and grade issues, people have been sick … even tonight. It’s a statement to the way the season has gone,” Tolbert said. “It’s a miracle that we made it to the play-in game.”
No, the frustrating defeat to Hawthorne didn’t push Tolbert over the edge. He had been planning to step down – and even strongly considered it a year before. But Tolbert was determined to see his last senior class through the program. They were committed to him, so he wanted to make sure that he reciprocated that commitment.
The players expected Tolbert to announce his resignation at some point following their final game. That didn’t make it any easier when it came moments after losing to Hawthorne.
“We all had the impression that he wouldn’t be coming back next year,” said sophomore Isabel Concha-Foley. “Just hearing him officially saying it was sad to hear. I think everyone in the locker room was crying.”
With three children, including one of basketball age – 9-year-old Cameron – Tolbert plans to channel his coaching energy into his family. He intends to coach Cameron’s youth league team next year and see to it that he is available to someday coach his younger sons: Jack, 2, and Evan, who was born in September.
“It’s totally family,” said Tolbert, explaining his departure. “On the bus ride home (Tuesday night), I was thinking, ‘What did I miss this time?’ The only person who benefits from me coaching is me. Everyone else is giving up something for me to coach.”
Tolbert will be missed at Whittell. During his five-year run in Zephyr Cove, the Warriors never were left out of the playoffs. Tolbert delivered perhaps the most successful half decade of girls’ basketball in school history. In only his second season – in 2005 – the Warriors experienced their first winning season in two decades. Only two years ago, the Warriors captured their first Northern 2A regional championship with upset wins over Lovelock and Battle Mountain. That team went on to finish third at state.
“Coaching been one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “We had a lot of talent, they knew how to win and they wanted to win.”
Tolbert said there are a couple of good candidates to replace him: Paul Tracy, his assistant for the past two years, and Natalie Vogt, who coached at Kingsbury Middle School and the Warriors’ JV team before it merged with the varsity at midseason.
Whoever the next coach is, Tolbert won’t be forgotten.
“He always had a smile on his face and a joke to tell,” Concha-Foley said. “It was really nice to have someone optimistic, even when we lost. I know we all will be sad that he won’t be there next year.”
Whittell High School’s girls’ basketball team’s playoff run during the past five years:
— 2004, reached regional semifinals
— 2005, reached regional semifinals
— 2006, won regional title, state semifinalist
— 2007, reached regional semifinals
— 2008, lost in regional first-round game
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