Laurel girls basketball coach resigns midseason, says ‘hand was forced’

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Thursday, January 20, 2022 | 9:23 PM


The Laurel girls basketball team is trying to reach the WPIAL playoffs for the fifth year in a row, but the Spartans must do so without their head coach.

Coach Matt Stebbins, who was in his sixth season, said Thursday he recently resigned under pressure, but declined to discuss specifics. He last coached Dec. 29.

“My hand was forced,” said Stebbins, saying he resigned “to leave opportunities open for myself.”

Laurel went 82-45 under Stebbins and reached the WPIAL finals two seasons ago.

“It is very tough to coach in today’s culture,” he added.

Stebbins resigned Jan. 10.

Laurel superintendent Leonard Rich said Stebbins was on paid leave before resigning, but added that “the administrative leave was not punishment.”

Rich said he couldn’t discuss personnel matters, but described the split between Stebbins and the school district as “amicable,” and made clear there were no misconduct allegations.

Laurel is 6-5 overall this season, 3-2 in Section 1-3A.

The Spartans won at least 10 games in Stebbins’ first five seasons. They reached the WPIAL semifinals each of the past three years, finishing 20-6 in 2018-19, 17-9 in 2019-20 and 18-3 last season.

In 2020, the team made the WPIAL Class 2A finals at Petersen Events Center and finished as runner-up to Bishop Canevin in a 50-41 loss.

Rich said assistant Jim Marcantino will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

In an email to media outlets announcing his resignation, Stebbins thanked the school district “for the wonderful opportunity” he had as coach.

“When hired, I promised to build the program K-12 and work hard year round,” he said. “We made history by winning a section title, advancing to a WPIAL championship and advancing to the state playoffs three times. I had the pleasure to coach with some amazing coaches that I now call my friends. I am thankful to have coached many outstanding, wonderful young ladies.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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