When Stan Joplin was fired after 12 seasons as the men’s basketball coach at his alma mater, the University of Toledo, he walked away with his head up and his mouth closed. He didn’t attend a press conference, didn’t issue a statement, turned down requests for interviews, and didn’t say a word. For three years.
“I always told my players to do things first class, so I tried to take the same approach,” Joplin said last week. “When they decide to go in another direction, when people don’t want you anymore, there’s not much you can do or say about it. I understood that.”
For three years, Joplin was a coach without a team. That changes now after his recent hiring as a dean of students and boys head coach at Springfield High School.
With more than 200 career victories, Joplin is the second winningest coach in UT history and No. 6 all-time among Mid-American Conference coaches. He was fired after an 11-19 season in 2007-08, one year after leading UT to its first regular-season league title in 27 years.
Whether you agreed or disagreed with UT’s decision to fire Joplin, no one would argue that what has followed qualifies as horrific. In three years, the Rockets have won a total of 15 games. Nine of Joplin’s teams won 15 games or more in a single season.
He takes no satisfaction in UT’s recent plight, saying, “I never wished ill or bad luck on anyone. That’s my school. That wouldn’t have been right.”
But he claims not to have paid a whole lot of attention either.
“I remember when my mother passed away in 1990,” he said. “I turned to health and fitness. Everything I used to eat that was bad for me, things I did that were bad for me, I quit everything cold turkey. When I was let go at UT, I took the same approach. Cold turkey. When [former] players would call or come to [son] Shaun’s games, we’d talk about school or about their families, but not basketball. I’ve stayed away.”
Joplin kept busy. At first, he spent so much time working out at St. James Club that some people thought he was an employee.
“A woman came up to me one day and said the pool water was too cold,” Joplin said, laughing. “I told her, ‘Sorry, ma’am, I don’t work here.’”
He spent a couple years teaching and subbing at city schools. He said he watched a lot of TV and he also dabbled in TV work as a basketball commentator for both BCSN and Fox Sports Detroit. He also returned to UT as a student to take classes he needed to be certified for school administration.
“That was a little scary, going back to school,” said Joplin, who will turn 54 next month. “One of the grad students asked me, ‘How old are you?’ I told her, and she said, ‘You’re old enough to be my dad.’ And I realized she was right.”
Joplin also made occasional visits to colleges to talk to coaches, watch practices, and stay current. But they were just visits. Whenever assistant coaching jobs came up, he heeded advice from friends who had been through the job-hopping mill to not uproot his school-age son and to avoid separation from his family.
That meant staying put. The Springfield job is the payoff.
“The way I look at it, I’m being hired by a quality school district as an administrator who will also coach basketball,” Joplin said. “But my first love is basketball. Everything I have is because of basketball. And once you’re a coach, you’re always a coach.”
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.