Posted: 4:39 pm Monday, February 13th, 2012
By Jeff Greer
One of the most well-known basketball coaches in Palm Beach County is back on the market.
Long-time coach Rob Long confirmed Monday that he will not return as Boca Raton’s boys’ basketball head coach after four seasons at the helm. Long, 56, who has coached in Palm Beach County on and off for more than 20 years, said he was asked to step down in a Friday meeting by Boca Principal Geoff McKee and Athletic Director Lewis Burnham.
“I was taken off-guard, very shocked, very hurt, went through a lot of emotions,” Long said. “I still to this day don’t really get it … I want it clear: I’m not leaving at all. That was their decision to ask me to step out. I had no unearthly idea (on Friday) that I was going to be going through a conversation to keep my job.”
There was some confusion on Monday morning when news got out that Long had spoken to his players about his dismissal before school. Boca administrators denied that any final decision had been made, saying they were surprised at Long’s decision. As Monday wore on, the school confirmed that Long, McKee and Burnham agreed to part ways on Friday.
Burnham, speaking on behalf of the school administration, said the goal of the move was to find a different leadership style for Boca’s improving basketball program. The Bobcats won six more games in the 2011-12 season than they did last campaign.
Long coached Boca to a 17-8 record this season, but the Bobcats lost in the District 10-8A semifinals, missing out on the region quarterfinals. His teams were 57-40 during his tenure, but never reached the region playoffs. Boca will not graduate any players from this season’s starting lineup.
“Coach Long is an amazing basketball mind,” Burnham said. “That did not weigh into the decision at all. He did great things for our program in four years. We just decided to go — not necessarily in a different direction, because he has us headed in the right direction — but we wanted to go with different leadership for this group.”
McKee’s son, Max, was a two-year starter on Long’s team and will return to a team that appears to be on the rise. But playing time or other parental concerns had nothing to do with Long’s dismissal, Burnham said.
“I really feel like this is unfair,” Long said. “However, my passion is in coaching, and that’s why I wanted to get to this right away. I needed to get it behind us. I want to keep coaching. I want a chance to find another place, coach another team. I won’t let this define me as a coach.”
Long’s name is all over the FHSAA record books. His 1990 Suncoast team won the Class 2A state championship, going undefeated in the process. Ten seasons later, Long’s Jupiter squad reached the 4A state title game but lost. His teams made six playoff appearances combined. He was also Jupiter’s athletic director for five years after resigning as the school’s basketball coach in 2003.
Long has coached 18 basketball seasons in Palm Beach County, compiling a 317-199 record over those years.