Photo courtesy of Ted Melton/actionsportspix.smugmug.com.
Spain Park center Austin Wiley 1
Spain Park's Austin Wiley led the Jaguars to a 24-6 season, but Spain Park has decided to remove head coach Neal Barker.
Spain Park boys basketball coach Neal Barker has been relieved of his coaching duties.
The Jaguars posted a 24-6 record this season and were among the ASWA Class 7A top 10 most of the season, rising as high as No. 2. But an upset loss to Vestavia Hills -- on a four-point play at the buzzer -- in the opening round of the area tournament prevented the Jaguars from advancing to the regionals.
"To be honest, I don't have any answers," Barker said of the reason for the change. "It was completely unexpected on my side of it. They just told me they were not happy with the leadership of the basketball program and wanted to make a change."
Spain Park Athletics Director Patrick Kellogg did not immediately return phone calls for comment.
"I asked if it was wins and losses, and they just wouldn't say," Barker said. He said he'd never heard any complaints from administration or from parents.
"Everybody was excited and working for next year. I hate to speculate, but when you don't know what's wrong, that's what makes it tough."
Barker said that he had just scheduled a pair of games with powerhouse Madison Academy at lunch on Wednesday. "And at 2:30, I'm fired."
The season-ending loss to Vestavia Hills came without one of the top players in the country, 6-10 Austin Wiley, who had a stomach ailment. He also missed another of the Jags' losses. Another key player was missing for two of their other losses.
During the regular season, Spain Park beat both 7A runner-up Mountain Brook and state champion Hoover.
Barker had just completed his fourth season as head coach, posting a record of 79-48. He previously had been assistant to Brian Moon for five seasons.
"I don't think I'm through coaching," said Barker, who is a science teacher at the school and retains that position. "I believe in God and I have faith in me. I believe God will open a door for me."