Bufton out as Wesleyan boys basketball coach

Bill Bufton found out last Thursday that his successful run as Wesleyan's head boys basketball coach is over after this season, and he informed his team of the news at a Monday night practice.

Bufton read a letter to his players that included the following passage: "The administration of Wesleyan School has decided they want a change of leadership in the boys basketball program at the conclusion of the season."

The coach, in his eighth year as head of the school's boys basketball program, went on to say in the letter that "because I respect authority and have a sincere love for Wesleyan, I will not be the basketball coach next year."

Essentially Bufton was given the choice to wait until the end of the season to let them know about Wesleyan's decision, or tell his players now. He chose the latter.

The players, like Bufton, were shocked that the coach of a 14-3 team wasn't being retained after this season. He has led the Wolves to five straight state tournaments and has them on track for a sixth this season. In his 22nd year as a head coach, he has more than 300 career wins, including a 127-87 record at Wesleyan.

"I discussed it with my wife and five kids, (my oldest son) Beau was home from college, and our first reaction was to keep it quiet until the end of the season," Bufton said on Tuesday. "But I didn't want it to get out there somehow and then do damage control. I wanted to tell my players first."

Bufton will coach his team the remainder of this season. He has the option of returning as Wesleyan's Dean of Students and eighth grade Bible teacher for the 2006-2007 school year, but said he likely will pursue another place where he can coach basketball.

Two of Bufton's children, Brett and Alex, are seniors at Wesleyan and his oldest son, Beau, attends Baylor University. But his two youngest children - Ashlyn is a 10th-grader and Alyson is a seventh-grader - both attend Wesleyan and that may influence his decision to leave.

Wesleyan headmaster Zach Young didn't go into details about his reasons for making a change in the basketball program, but indicated it wasn't about wins and losses.

"In my view it was time for a change in the boys basketball program," Young said. "It was about telling him of something that was going to happen (at the end of the season) rather than wait until the end of the season to tell him. I thought it was fairer to tell him and give him time to make his next step.

"I thought it was better to tell him and let him decide when to (let his players know)."

Bufton said the news caught him and his players off guard. Former players have called the coach regularly since word got out of his departure, and he received more than 50 e-mails from current and past Wesleyan parents on Tuesday.

"(The players) were shocked, angry," Bufton said. "They're a little distraught right now. But we've still got games to win this season. I'm not going to bail on them and they're not going to bail on me."