The Dayton Public Schools parted ways with one of its most successful coaches in the history of the multiple-school urban district on Tuesday by not rehiring Pete Pullen as the Dunbar High School boys basketball coach.
DPS voted 4-2 to approve newcomer Charles Taylor as the Wolverines new coach during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“I have to live with that,” said Pullen, who guided the Wolverines the past 13 seasons and won four Division II state championships. “I teach my players how to lose graciously. This is a loss for me so I’m going to walk out with my head up high. I know there’s better things for me.”
Board president Robert Walker and Ron Lee both cited loyalty to a revised hiring process for DPS coaches in which Taylor scored higher than Pullen. They were joined by Sheila Taylor, the chair of athletic board control, and Robert McManus in favor of hiring Taylor.
“I hear that process being challenged,” Lee said prior to a special vote for the Dunbar position. “Because I advocated for the process and it was adopted by this board I have to go along with this change.”
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At least a half-dozen pro-Pullen supporters spoke prior to the vote on his behalf. They included former Dunbar teachers, players and an assistant coach. Taylor and Pullen were the only applicants.
“The process clearly gives the appearance that one candidate had inside information that coach Pullen would not be retained,” said board member Joe Lacy, who voted against hiring Taylor as did board vice president Hazel Rountree.
“There’s a serious problem with this process. To disregard 20 years of experience is not what this district should be about. This process is another example of a system that awards you for who you know and not what you know.”
Rountree took a more direct reason for voting not to hire Taylor. “I don’t feel in my soul this system was fair,” she said. “It doesn’t feel right. There’s something wrong with that and I won’t be a part of it.”
Board member Adil Baquirov abstained from voting.
DPS issued a release Wednesday on the hiring of Taylor. Included was an explanation of the process:
“Each candidate was given two interviews by a team that included a Dunbar teacher, the building’s athletics director, its principal, assistant principals and the district’s athletics director,” the release read. “The points that were tallied gave Mr. Taylor the advantage.”
Pullen, 63, oversaw Dunbar’s return to state prominence, winning four Division II state titles in 2012 and ’10 and consecutive titles in 2006-07. Dunbar also advanced to two more state final fours in that span.
Taylor has extensive AAU basketball coaching experience, but none at the high school level. He has coached Stivers boys middle school basketball. He was a senior starter on Roth’s 1981 Class AAA state title team and is the older brother of former Dunbar basketball standout Kirk Taylor, a standout on Dunbar’s 1987 Class AAA state title team.
All coaching contracts for OHSAA member schools are annually renewable.
Pullen said among the reasons he was told he likely wouldn’t retain the coaching position was his inquiry into the then-open Wayne boys basketball position, not communicating adequately with college coaches who were recruiting Dunbar players and administrative lapses during the Midwest Shootout, a 24-team summer basketball tournament that he ran at Dunbar the last 12 years.
Pullen retired from teaching in 2016, but returned to Dunbar this past school year as a classroom teacher at the request of administrators. In all, he was a teacher and coach for DPS teams the last 20 years, including a celebrated run as Dunbar’s girls basketball coach before taking over the boys program.
“I can tell you teams in the Southwest District will not play Dayton Public Schools if Pete Pullen is not reinstated,” former Dunbar assistant and former Ponitz head coach Shaun O’Connell said prior to the vote. “That reputation is bigger than Dunbar.
“I’m very upset. I sat in there and heard that this is about kids. I don’t know that we helped kids on (Monday) and I’m somebody who cares very deeply about the kids in Dayton Public Schools. It’s very sad it’s taken this turn.”
In all, 13 DPS winter coaching positions were approved. Besides Pullen, the only other change was Calvin Mitchell succeeding Chad Miller as Meadowdale’s girls basketball coach. Miller is currently the Lions’ AD. It was unclear if the absence of any Ponitz winter coaches on the agenda was an oversight or not.
The Dunbar boys basketball coaching staff reportedly is set and none of Pullen’s assistants have been retained.
Pullen is recovering from knee surgery and hasn’t participated in offseason workouts since the summer. He didn’t rule out a return to coaching.
“This is the way they wanted to go and I wish them the best,” he said. “I’ll give it a day or two to think about it and see what unfolds for me. I prayed on this and God must have a better plan for me. I wish everybody good luck and God bless Dunbar High School.”
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