Gorch on the Porch: Athletic department overhaul at South Central

File photo by Steve T. GorchesEric Stephens talks to his South Central football players after a practice in 2015. The former La Porte defensive coordinator led the Satellites for two seasons with a 12-9 record.

Not that there hasn’t been enough coaching change issues going around this year, from a state championship coach at Marquette leaving for Green(er)castle pastures to a coach at La Crosse getting a raw deal to La Porte's situation this week that has high-profile basketball pundits from Michigan City to Crown Point to Indianapolis up in arms.

But South Central’s athletic department changes might top them all. The only difference is there really isn’t much controversy, in case you were hungry for some more.

The small south La Porte County school has needed to find replacements for the top four positions in the athletic department — head football coach, head boys basketball coach, head girls basketball coach and athletic director — over the last month, but most have been seamless.

Rick Budka stepped down as girls basketball coach in early May and his assistant, Wes Bucher, was approved to take over right away.

Same goes for football with Eric Stephens stepping down last week and his assistant and former colleague on the La Porte High School football staff, Buzz Schoff, was approved to take over at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Unlike Tom Wells at La Porte, Stephens was the one who said ‘it’s just time’ when describing his resignation.

“I am finishing up my Masters degree in administration this summer,” he said. “I wanted to step down early so the school could find a replacement so whoever took over would have time during these crucial summer months.

“On top of that, I really wanted to spend a summer with my family since I haven’t had a summer without coaching since I graduated from college. No negative reason whatsoever … just changed my career goals.”

Stephens added that he’s going to enjoy following his sons, Easton and Colin, during travel baseball this summer.

Stephens went 12-9 in two seasons with the Satellites, notching a sectional opening win at West Central last year before losing a close game to North Judson. Schoff was on the defensive staff at La Porte when it reached the Class 5A state final in 2014.

The Bucher and Schoff hires fell under athletic director Tim Scott’s watch. But he will not be the AD after July 1, and will just be the assistant principal. The new AD will be baseball coach Ryan Kruszka, who led the Satellites to a Class A sectional title a few weeks ago.

Time will tell if Scott or Kruszka will oversee the replacement of boys basketball coach Eric Branz.

Nope, this one isn’t controversial either. Branz, who went 40-51 in four seasons with the Satellites, was hired as the new head boys coach at Yorktown in the Muncie area. His fiancé got a new job in Westfield, not far from Yorktown, and Branz wanted to work closer. Makes perfect sense.

“It’s kind of a breath of fresh air,” Branz told the Muncie Star Press. “I’ve seen the same teams for the last seven years and I’m always excited to learn something new.”

There has not been a replacement named yet, and contrary to popular belief — mostly my own belief — Budka isn’t interested, even though that would have been quite a conversation starter.

“I decided not to apply,” Budka said. “I’m hoping they choose correctly and maybe I’d get a chance to help in some capacity.”

Choose correctly, huh? Maybe unfairly deposed La Crosse coach Jeff Mitzner would be the ‘correct’ choice since it would be a nice kick in the pants for SC’s main rival and Mitzner does have connections to the Satellites since his daughter played for Budka at South Central. Also, Mitzner is a good guy, though that didn’t matter for Wells at La Porte.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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