West Fargo AD 'shocked' by Packers coach resignation
WEST FARGO—West Fargo High School activities director Jay DeCann said he was "shocked" when he opened his email on Thursday, March 16, during the school's spring break and read Packers head boys basketball coach Josh Downey's request for an immediate resignation.
In the email Downey wrote to school administration on Thursday, he wrote that he needed to relocate his family for a new job. He asked that his resignation be immediately accepted. He then needed to write a formal request to the school board to be released from his teaching contract.
In that email from Downey to the West Fargo School Board on Monday, March 20, Downey asked he be released from his contract "effective immediately" due to "extenuating circumstances." Downey wrote that his new job required he begin immediately from a remote location with flexibility for travel. He said he was initially granted unpaid leave from March 20-24 but changed that request to permanent.
Downey, also a physical education teacher, said he created a week-long lesson plan and that lesson plans and other materials were prepared for the rest of the year to help smooth the teaching transition.
Downey could not be reached for comment as of Monday night.
"My personal health has been declining drastically this year due to high stress levels associated from work," Downey said in the email. "My family decided that I need to pursue other employment opportunities for the betterment of our family. ... I understand that I am breaking my contract, but ask for your understanding as I need to do what is best for my family."
Downey led the Packers for two seasons, ending with a 44-10 record. The Packers ended the 2015-16 season as state runners-up at the Class A state tournament. This year, Downey led the Packers to a 65-56 win over West Fargo Sheyenne in the North Dakota Class A state tournament fifth-place game on Saturday, March 11, at the Bismarck Event Center, ending the season 21-6.
Downey took over in 2015 after Greg Limke retired after 14 years as Packers' coach. Before coming to West Fargo, Downey had a brief stint at Whitefish (Mont.) High School. A conflict with the administrators there led him to resign.
Before that, he led Bigfork High School to a 26-0 season in the Montana Class B division, and won the state championship.
"We would like to thank Coach Downey for all his efforts with our student-athletes at West Fargo High School the past two seasons. We wish him nothing but the best as he moves on to new endeavors," read a statement released by the school district. "It caught us all off guard."
In a phone interview on Monday, March 20, DeCann said: "He's made a choice to pursue some adventures that are financially going to benefit his family."
DeCann said Downey talked a few times about an "amazing opportunity" with a high school friend in the past, but didn't want to go into further detail. DeCann was adamant that Downey was not forced or pressured into resigning.
"He's going to have an unbelievable opportunity," DeCann said. "You have to be happy for the guy. But at the same time, he's got to be looking out for himself and his family."
DeCann said his goal is to have a replacement chosen by May 1 depending on applicants and teaching openings at the school. The process for hiring a new coach will begin immediately to lessen the impact on out-of-season programming and to allow the new coach to develop relationships with students and other coaches, District Spokeswoman Heather Konschak said in a release.
"He built some phenomenal relationships with the kids," DeCann said. "That's definitely his strong suit. In the short period of time he was here, he created a culture within our basketball program that was built around our kids. I think he did a great job with that."