In a move that was widely anticipated, the Saskatchewan Shockers announced that they would not be bringing back interim coach Caleb Ponder, opening up what could be a wide-ranging search for a new bench boss for a young and rising team.
Ponder took over the Shockers at the All-Star Break when the team fired Myron Beasley, who was the only head coach the team had ever had. Beasley guided Saskatchewan to a 12-17-1 record before his dismissal. Ponder, who had been Beasley’s assistant, compiled a similar record to his predecessor, posting a 15-16-3 mark in the second half.
“We appreciate everything that Caleb has done for the Shockers organization in his four years with us, and especially during his half-season as interim head coach,” said Shockers GM Cooper Matthews. “He’s a good coach and a fine human being. But we felt like it was time for a fresh start.”
Sources close to the team said that there was no chance that Ponder was going to be considered for the long-term head job, even at the time of his hiring. “Unless he somehow won the Vandy, Caleb wasn’t coming back,” said one source. The perception in Saskatchewan’s front office was that Beasley’s cheerful, quippy approach wasn’t working with a young team that both owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz and GM Matthews expect to be a serious contender, and that Ponder wasn’t enough of a change from Beasley.
“Everybody liked Myron,” said one senior front office member, speaking under condition of anonymity. “He’s a really nice guy, and his press conferences were fun to watch. But the perception was that he wasn’t driving the team that hard, and we’re at a stage where we need someone with a firmer hand to get to the next level.”
Ponder took the news with grace. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” the coach told reporters. “I think we have a talented group of guys here, and the sky’s the limit. I wish them nothing but the best.”
The Shockers are expected to cast a wide net when looking for their next coach. The names being considered by the team include minor-league coach Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh, Michigan assistant Morris Thompson, Anchorage assistant Kyle Barrow, and longtime bench boss Harvey Williams.
Saskatchewan’s front office is reportedly looking for a coach who takes a firm hand with discipline and has a track record with building winning teams. These caveats would seem to rule out Marsh, who is best known for his offbeat sense of humor and has only been a coach for two years. But multiple sources confirmed that he will be considered, possibly due to his success in molding the Shockers’ minor-league prospects.