By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – After 10 years as coach of the Green Bay Southwest boys’ basketball team, John Polkowski has stepped down.
This past season, the Trojans, members of the Fox River Classic Conference, finished 12-13 overall and 10-8 in conference play.
In Polkowski’s 10 years on the bench, he finished with a 99-126 overall record.
“I’m leaving on good terms – the administration at Southwest has been extremely supportive over the years,” the 35-year-old Polkowski said. “The demands of the job are a lot. People watch the games and practices, but there are many other duties. I’m at a point in my career where I’m satisfied with what I’ve done.”
Polkowski said wanting more family time played a big role in his decision.
“Time is often a person’s biggest asset,” he said. “I have three young kids at home – it’s never a dull moment, and it’s a busy house. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach for 10 years. After every season, you reflect on things before moving forward.”
Southwest athletic director Amy Hogan said she “completely understands the situation.”
“John is a great person and mentor,” she said. “Kids get older, and it’s a long season – I get it.”
Bay Port’s Nate Rykal, De Pere’s Brian Winchester and Pulaski’s Dave Shaw are the only three FRCC boys’ basketball coaches who currently have a longer tenure than Polkowski.
“I’ve been fortunate to have good coaches around me,” he said. “In this day and age, you don’t see as many long-term coaches as you used to.”
Although he’s excited to step away to get more family time, Polkowski said he’ll miss being on the bench next season.
“I’ll for sure miss it,” he said. “I also look forward to watching games as a fan at Southwest and watching other teams, too. On the flip side, there will also be things I don’t miss.”
Polkowski’s best season as coach was in 2018-19 when the Trojans finished 22-3 and captured the FRCC crown for the first time in nearly two decades.
“There are a lot of great memories, but that season ranks right up there,” he said. “That was a unique and special group, and I still hold many connections with those players. They left their mark at Southwest.”
Despite closing the door to his immediate coaching career, Polkowski said he doesn’t know what his long-time coaching future looks like.
“There are always opportunities to get involved,” he said. “I’m still young in my career – I was fortunate the Southwest administration hired me so early. It would be easy to step back in, but I’m focused on giving my family the best right now.”
The next leader
With the familiarity and steadiness of Polkowski leaving, the Southwest administration has a big task in finding the next leader of the program.
“There’s momentum with the job I hope is carried on,” Polkowski said. “If need be, I’d like to help in the transition and see it through. When some coaches step down, they want to part ways completely. I’m still a (physical education) teacher at Southwest and involved in athletic duties. I want to see this program succeed – I have a vested interest. Hopefully, the new coach can put his or her own taste on it and keep it going.”
Hogan said the opening has been posted, and the search is on for a new coach.
“We’ll see who applies,” she said. “John has built a nice program, and we’ve got some great kids coming up through the ranks – we’ll be fine. I’d hope we’ll have someone in place by the end of April.”
After the recent resignation of girls’ basketball coach Tony Lee, Southwest is looking to replace two varsity head coaches.
“We haven’t hired a (girls) coach yet,” Hogan said. “We’re in the process of interviewing – I’d hope we’ll make that decision in the next week or so.”
It’s been a difficult past year for the girls’ program.
In March of 2022, former coach Berri West resigned and was replaced by Jacob Polfus.
Shortly after Polfus accepted the job, he took another coaching position in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and resigned from the Southwest job.
Lee was hired last summer before stepping down in March.