ROSS TWP. — The Ross High School girls basketball program has a new leader who’s excited about the future and an old leader who’s not very happy about the whole situation.
Ross athletic director Jake Richards recently announced the dismissal of eight-year head coach Rodney Parrett and the hiring of Ben Buehner to replace him.
“We are extremely excited about the addition of Coach Buehner to our head coaching ranks here at Ross,” Richards said. “It’s huge to have a head coach in the building who is able to develop positive relationships with student-athletes on and off the court. Coach Buehner also makes student-athlete growth his priority, which aligns perfectly with our mission in Ross athletics.”
Buehner, 36, is a first-year social studies teacher at Ross. The former Valley View head boys basketball coach was a Ross varsity boys hoop assistant in 2018-19 and is currently a varsity baseball assistant at the school.
The Ram girls were 9-59 on the basketball court over the last three seasons, so Buehner knows he’s got some work to do.
“That’s kind of why you get into education and high school sports, to see the growth,” said Buehner, who’s expected to receive school-board approval April 3. “There’s really nothing more rewarding.
“First and foremost, I’m grateful for this opportunity. No one will work harder and be more prepared than we will be in Ross girls basketball. We will be relentless in our approach to the game. I have high expectations and want our girls to be faithful, available and teachable.”
Parrett, a 1986 Ross graduate, was 61-121 during his tenure with the program. The Rams were Southwest Ohio Conference tri-champions in 2015-16, but finished between fourth and seventh place during their other six years of SWOC competition.
This is Richards’ first year as the athletic director at Ross. He said the decision to remove Parrett was difficult for him.
“I respect Coach Parrett tremendously, but at this point, it was time for a new direction in Ross girls basketball,” Richards said. “We think that’s what’s best for the program moving forward, and that’s where we are.
“A decision like that is never just about wins and losses because if it is, we’re missing the overall point. To say that we parted ways because he wasn’t winning is misleading at best. We want our kids to grow and to learn every single day that they’re involved in Ross athletics. That’s our end goal.
“Now if that comes with a helluva lot of wins, great. If it doesn’t, that’s something we need to analyze. We need to figure out how to make the program more successful. It’s not about wins and losses, but on some level, that’s a reflection of the program.
“I think in one of the conversations I had with Rodney in this process, he really drove home a point that was a great reminder of what we’re doing. Because he’s a firefighter, he said, ‘In my daily job, a bad day is when somebody dies.’ So what we’re talking about is sports. Nobody is going to die because of it.”
Parrett said he had no idea he was going to be dismissed when he met with Richards six days after the Rams’ 53-16 Division II sectional loss to Franklin.
“Blindsided is the best way to say it,” Parrett said. “It blew me away because we had so much planned for this summer and the girls were buying into it. We were going to get better.”
Parrett said with his record, especially over the last three years, it would’ve been legitimate for Richards to sit down with him and basically say, “Look, this is my first year as athletic director. Here’s what I saw and here’s what I feel needs to improve. If you don’t turn it around next year, you’re gone.”
Said Parrett, “I would’ve been good with that. That’s a fair statement.”
He missed three games during the season to deal with a family matter in Texas and said he got a call while there that a school-board member in the stands was allegedly talking about the varsity coaches not returning next season.
Parrett called Richards immediately.
“Jake said, ‘Absolutely not.’ His words were, ‘I hopefully don’t work for an administration that’s going to tell me who to hire and fire as a coach,’ ” Parrett said. “When I got fired, I reminded him about that statement. He said, ‘I don’t recall saying that.’ I just said we’re going to agree to disagree.
“My thing is, ‘I feel like somebody above you told you to let me go, not (principal) Brian Martin, and you had to do it.’ He said, ‘No, it was my decision, and I stand strong behind it.’ ”
Parrett said he was told at the start of this season that he needed to get more involved with the Ross youth program. He was willing to do it, but said he needed time, noting that former athletic director Doug Noonan — the man who hired him — told him it was too political to focus on.
Parrett said he also organized summer-league play for Ross this year and was encouraged by Richards to do that.
“Why did he let me set all that stuff up if he was going to let me go?” Parrett said. “There were a million reasons he could’ve given me not to start the summer league.
“He said, ‘The program’s in shambles.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? Every team below me had a winning season.’ I wasn’t loaded with talent. Three years ago, we were on top. The next year I had five ACL tears. I’m not making excuses. What I wanted was for him to hear me out on what my plan is.
“I come in for a meeting basically about something that went on at the tournament game and Jake says, ‘Sure, come on in.’ I come in, we talk about it, and at the end of that he tells me we’re going in a different direction with the program. I thought the way it happened was shady and not professional at all.”
He hopes to coach again somewhere after taking some time off.
“I bled maroon and gold,” Parrett said. “My dad graduated from there. I graduated from there. My mom was secretary there for 3o-plus years. I was completely devoted to this. I coached just as hard when we were losing as I did when we were winning.
“I’m not too proud to say they didn’t want me to come back. It sucks, but I’m not going to make up some story about how I need time for family and make these girls think I quit on them because I never quit on them.”
Buehner is the program’s new direction, and he’s got quite a bit of head coaching experience in boys basketball (eight years at Valley View) and baseball (two years at Valley View, one year at Preble Shawnee).
But this will be his first girls coaching job. Buehner joked that he does have some experience coaching girls from the sideline while watching his wife Jessica’s soccer teams play — she heads the Ross girls soccer program.
“Something I really wrestled with … is my personality going to work well with girls as opposed to guys?” Ben Buehner said. “I’ve talked to a bunch of people who have coached boys and girls, and they told me about the similarities and the differences. They convinced me that it’s not much different.”
Buehner is a 2001 Valley View graduate who was a baseball, basketball and football standout with the Spartans.
He played baseball for four years at Wilmington College and graduated with a degree in integrated social studies and secondary education. He attended Indiana and Wright State before ending up at Wilmington.
The Buehners have four children: J.J. (9), Tavyn (6), Bexley (3) and Ayla (1). Ben decided to leave Valley View and come to Ross after his wife was hired by RHS (the Rams were 8-3-6 in her first season last fall).
“My wife had given up a bunch for me to coach, so I felt like I needed to give it up for her,” Ben said. “I made a big leap of faith coming down here, but I wasn’t done coaching by any means. I told Coach (David) Lane when I came on to help with basketball, ‘I still want to be a head coach. I’m not going to do anything to take your job, but that’s still an aspiration of mine.’ ”
The Buehners moved from Germantown to Harrison to get closer to Ross. Ben said he felt like he became a better head coach while working on Lane’s staff.
“You can learn a lot from sitting back and watching,” Buehner said. “I think I can do some things with the girls that can make us fun to watch. Based on what I see on the soccer field, on the volleyball court and on the softball field, I know the athletes are here.
“I want to make sure we play fundamental basketball. If we’re athletic enough to get up and down and play some pressure defense, we’ll do that. If we’re not as athletic, we’ll slow it down a little bit. We were super aggressive on the defensive end at Valley View. I think we led the league all eight years I was there in fouls and in steals.
“I think we can be successful in our league. I’m more sold on the direction of the administrative and athletic leadership here with their support system. I really like the direction the whole school is going. That’s part of the reason that I made the decision to come here.”