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Dundee Crown head coach Michelle Russell talks to her team during a break in the action in the second quarter of their game against Larkin at Dundee Crown High School Carpentersville. December 18, 2012. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Several days later, Michelle Russell was still bewildered by her dismissal from duties as Dundee-Crown girls varsity basketball coach.
“We had a good season in 2012 — second in the conference and 15-11 — and this year we had graduated three seniors who averaged over 10 points a game,” the D-C graduate said. “And they all played in college this year.
“So we had a very young squad.”
The firing left School District 300 with vacancies in two head coaching positions as Hampshire’s Ed Haugens had stepped down immediately after the team’s last game.
Russell’s departure ended a stint of 13 years in the Dundee-Crown program. She coached underclass eight years before becoming the head coach for five seasons. In those five seasons she had a record of 32-103. D-C was 4-24 last season.
“Talent comes and goes in cycles,” she said. “You have ups and downs in that regard. We had lost our experienced players, but we had a lot of inexperienced players get experience this year and played their hearts out. So I was looking forward to coaching them in the future.
“Also, our kids in the feeder programs were really coming on so the future was looking really bright for Dundee-Crown.”
Russell said she was called in for her review earlier in the week. The review amounted to her dismissal.
“If someone had been unhappy, I did not hear about it,” she said. “Last year there was nothing said after the season to the effect that if something didn’t improve [record-wise] that would be the final year.”
Russell said the fluctuation in player experience and talent level should have been taken into account.
“That’s the nature of the beast,” she said. “The boys team a few years ago won a trophy for fourth in the state and the next year they won six games.”
Russell is a Dundee-Crown High School Hall of Fame athlete and former basketball star at the school. She teaches fifth grade at Westfield Community School in Algonquin, said she’s still undecided whether she’ll get back into coaching.
“It was a way for me to give back to the community that I enjoyed,” she said. “It’s still too soon to know.
“I really liked being back where I had played.’’