“This really has very little to do with basketball, and is really a career direction that I wanted to make, and my family life played a big role in my decision.”
Those were the words Ned Menke first used to describe his recent resignation as boys varsity basketball head coach at Perry and his acceptance of a new role as co-principal at Perry Elementary School.
Menke’s resignation was accepted by the Perry Community School District Board of Education Monday, with the board transferring the 10-year district employee from his role as Dean of Students at Perry Elementary into a co-principal position with current PES associate principal Joel Martin beginning with the next school year.
When he first came to Perry 10 years ago, the University of Northern Iowa graduate began teaching a mathematics lab in the middle school and coaching eighth grade basketball. For the past eight seasons he was been the head coach of the Bluejay varsity and, last year, was named the Dean of Students at PES.
Menke’s stint as the Perry boys coach ends on a high note, as he guided the school to their first state tournament appearance since 1988. Along the way, he received statewide plaudits after being named the Iowa Character Counts Coach of the Year.
“We will miss him as a coach, for sure, but this is going to be a great thing for the district and the kids at the elementary in particular,” Perry Superintendent Lynn Ubben said. “Ned is invested in the community and in the district and we are happy to have him staying on with us in his new role, which I am very confident is going to work out well for everyone involved.”
Menke had informed his superiors and assistant coaches of his decision a week ago, but kept the news from his players so as not to be a distraction while they took Iowa Assessment tests this week. A team meeting was called after the testing was done and Menke informed the team in what he called “an emotional gathering.”
“We were stunned,” sophomore Connor Nielsen said. “I thought maybe he was going to tell us about summer camps or something. I don’t think any of us saw it coming.”
“It is still kind of hard, to realize he is not going to be here next year,” junior Kyle Nevitt said. “He is such a great coach, and he is the reason we made it to state. He always knew exactly how to get us prepared, and what to say, and he was always calm when sometimes things didn’t go right. The other thing is that he treated everyone the same — he was fair to everybody.”
“We understand why he is not going to coach, but we will still miss him,” Nielsen said. “He led us to state and none of us is ever going to forget that.”
With wife Meg, son Pierce (4) and daughter Brynn (1) at home, Menke said his choice was clear. He explained that he felt fortunate his professional desire to enter into administration and his determination to spend more time with his family just happened to coincide with the creation of the co-principal position.
“It made a tough decision easier to make,” he said. “I mean, I feel like there was just no better time for me to do this, but that does not mean it was easy to leave coaching, and I hope one day to coach again, some time in the future.”
Menke said he would remain forever grateful for the support he has received.
“Mrs. Ubben, Mr. (Tom) Lipovac (Perry Activities Director), the board and all my co-workers have been just wonderful,” he remarked. “My assistant coaches have been excellent to work with and the comments I have received from the community and some of my fellow coaches who we compete against have been nothing but positive and I cannot thank everyone enough. I look forward to working side-by-side with Joel and I already know we are going to make a great team.”
“I have heard from several former players, as well,” he concluded. “I will miss the guys on the team now, but I know they will be in good hands and are still capable of big things and they will not have a bigger fan than me.”