By Josh Vitale, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — After three successful seasons at North Port High School, including a run to the state semifinals in 2015, boys basketball coach Travis Slanger resigned his position Monday morning.
Slanger has accepted a similar coaching position at Lowell High School in Lowell, Mich., which is close to where he’s originally from in West Michigan.
“It’s extremely difficult to have to say goodbye to the players and the coaches and the staff at the school,” Slanger told the Sun on Monday. “It certainly has nothing to do with me being unhappy at North Port or looking to leave. It was a ‘do it for my family’ type thing.”
Since taking over the Bobcats program three years ago, Slanger built it to be one of the best in the area. North Port won 18 or more games two times in the past three seasons, and won the school’s first district and regional boys basketball championships in 2015 as it made it to the final four.
But Slanger, who has been in North Port for the past 12 years, said he and his wife had been talking about moving their young daughters back closer to family for some time.
“It was an offer and a situation that we couldn’t turn down,” Slanger said. “It was a move for family reasons. It had nothing do with professional reasons. I love it at North Port. I love the administration and the kids.”
North Port athletic director Cary Willgren, who learned of Slanger’s decision on Monday morning, said the school hasn’t put any thought into hiring a replacement, but left open the possibility that the job could be open to both internal and external candidates.
“It’s a move he and his family felt they had to make at this time,” he said. “It’s a good thing for him, but a bad thing for North Port that he’s leaving. He’s a good guy, fantastic coach. One of the best coaches in the area.”
Slanger said the most difficult part of the decision was having to leave behind the school and the “tremendous relationships” he had with his players and their parents, principal David Jones, and the school’s administration and athletic department.
He leaves behind a Bobcats team that, despite being very young after losing its top seven scorers from the 2015 final-four team, is coming off a successful season that includes a regular-season district title and a berth in the regional playoffs.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, because after that final four run we had a rebuilding year last year, but I thought we played pretty well overcoming some youth,” Slanger said. “And now you’re turning it over to someone else to see the fruits of your labor. But I think these kids are really going to have a great season.”