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BOYS BASKETBALL: Gary Bouchette declines to return as Northern Lebanon coach

Trust, as it is to many, is very important to Gary Bouchette.

In the absence of it, the former Northern Lebanon boys basketball coach simply couldn't bring himself to become the new Northern Lebanon boys basketball coach.

After weighing for a week an unconditional offer to return to the position he was unceremoniously, and controversially, bounced from back in February, Bouchette informed the NL administration on Wednesday that he would not be taking his head coaching job back.

And at the core of the decision was trust.

Though the Northern Lebanon school board, under public pressure from a community group of Bouchette supporters, voted unanimously to give the job back to Bouchette at its committee meeting last week, the offer came too late to undo the damage that had been previously done by the messy parting of ways.

It couldn't erase the bad feelings that came when complaints from then board president David Hauck about lack of playing time for some team members led to Bouchette's initial ouster.

It also couldn't wipe away what Bouchette felt was a self-serving move by the administration to offer him his job back with conditions a few weeks later.

"I tossed the idea around quite a bit," said Bouchette of mulling the offer to return for the last week. "I guess it came down to the whole trust issue. I felt like I was more of a pawn than anything. I think a lot of sides were trying to use me to get what they wanted.

"I guess I want to coach at a place where I am the best candidate for the position and at a school that wants me. Not that they want me because they want to ease the tensions with the community. And that's what I didn't feel."

"I told Mr. Artz (athletic director Nate) that I just don't feel it's in the best interests of myself, and also the basketball program for me to come back."

Minus those trust issues, Bouchette, who will continue as a teacher at Northern Lebanon, likely would have returned to lead the program that he grew up with as a player and Viking alum.

He also thanked the community for its support, and spoke highly of his now former players, wishing them the best moving forward.

"I am grateful that the community rallied behind me," Bouchette said, "and I feel badly that I didn't accept it back. But I'm really grateful that they did support me. There were just too many negatives for me to accept it back.

"It still is a tough decision. If it was just about the kids I would take it back in a heart beat. But to me it's about so much more than the kids right now. There's way too many issues there. I think it's just better that somebody else comes in and starts fresh."

All that said, Bouchette didn't rule out remaining involved with the program at the youth league level, if his replacement would be agreeable to that.

He also noted that he had some offers from other schools to be an assistant, but for now would like to step away from coaching at the varsity level.

"I've had some opportunities. I just don't know that I want to accept them right now," he said. "It's just too fresh for me right now. Depending on how the hiring process goes, I would like to stay on and work with the youth. Because that's one area that Northern Lebanon really needs and one area I couldn't focus on as head coach.

"I'd like to get the youth program on track and help the program in that way."

Though his decision could bring about some closure to the situation for him personally, Bouchette is skeptical that it will immediately heal many of the wounds that have been opened up in the school district and the community at large.

"I wish it was just about me, but there's so much else (going on)," he said. "I don't know that the drama is going to stop. I'm just looking to move on and see what else is out there for me."