Neal Owens is out as Richard Montgomery High School's football coach.
Who made the decision?
“Um,” Owens said, pausing for a couple seconds. “It was made clear to me that [the] school wanted to go in a different direction. So, I just took the cue and resigned.”
Owens said he communicated directly with Richard Montgomery Athletic Director Jonathan Freda throughout the process. Freda could not be reached for comment.
“I thought about fighting, but know that the athletic director is not going anywhere. It would just be a year of it happening again, watching my back,” Owens said.
In three seasons, Owens raised Richard Montgomery's record from 0-10 to 5-5 to 6-4. Richard Montgomery went 3-27 in the three years prior to Owens' arrival, and a 26-game losing streak carried into his second season.
Owens, who works in the special education department at Albert Einstein High School, said he had discussions about working at Richard Montgomery. That was important to the coach because he has four daughters younger than 10 and wanted both more time to spend with them and a more manageable way to stay close with his players. But those discussions stalled.
“I don't think they were ever that serious,” Owens said.
Owens' father attended Richard Montgomery, and though Owens attend Gonzaga, he often used Richard Montgomery's practice field to train. Owens called Richard Montgomery's state-championship victory in 1981 one of his first sports memories.
“To get that job was kind of a dream job for me,” Owens said. “To have it kind of it just yanked away the way it happened is pretty painful.”
Owens said he has already received inquiries about joining other coaching staffs and he plans to assess his options after Jan. 1. He said he'd be interested in remaining a head coach, especially if he can get a job in the building.
“If I can get RM close to the playoffs, I think I can go pretty much anywhere and succeed,” Owens said. “It's really been a confidence booster.”
After Owens told his team Tuesday night, he said he received more than 80 texts and 50 Facebook messages offering well wishes.
“I wouldn't have changed this for anything in the world,” Owens said.
Owens said he thought back to Richard Montgomery's season finale against Northwest High School. The Rockets led 20-13 in the second quarter before Northwest stormed back for a 54-20 win. If Richard Montgomery had somehow held on, which would have guaranteed its first playoff appearance since 2005, would Owens have still been out?
“I think it was going to happen regardless,” Owens said.