GLEN LAKE — Rich Ruelas was downstairs in his house watching TV with his 6-year-old son a few weeks ago.
“Out of the blue he asked me if I was coaching this year,” said Ruelas, the coach of state-contending Glen Lake basketball program in that moment. “When I told him that I was, he sounded disappointed.”
Ruelas asked his son if he’d prefer him not to coach this year. His son replied: “Not really, I never get to see you.”
“That just kind of hit me hard,” the father of three said. “I missed his first Christmas concert that he’s ever had, and I’ve missed parent-teacher conferences. He’s at the age where he could remember me being around and I want to be there for him. Plain and simple.”
Ruelas informed Glen Lake athletic director Mark Mattson of his intent to step down Lakers coach Monday morning. Longtime Glen Lake coach turned-assistant Don Miller also will not return for the 2020 season out of coronavirus concerns.
The Lakers will look to fill both roles with five weeks to go until the scheduled start of basketball season.
“I’m 74, I’m slightly overweight, and my name is Donald,” Miller said. “The difference between me and the other Donald — who’s 74 and overweight — is that I can’t get to Walter Reed. I don’t have that helicopter.”
Miller said when he accepted an offer from Ruelas to rejoin the Lakers as an assistant coach five years ago, there would only be two things that would force him to end his coaching career that’s extended into seven decades. His family or his health.
“Now it’s my family and my health, because my family is worried about my health,” said Miller, who added his daughter in Vermont calls him concerned over leaving the house or going to a store.
Glen Lake now enters a season scheduled to begin in just over a month with three vacancies on their coaching staff. Nate Sneed, Ruelas’ top assistant, is now the head coach for the Glen Lake football team.
Mattson said it’s certainly possible for Sneed to lead the team in the interim, and he has full faith in his ability to lead the program, should he be able to handle the mental toll of leading two varsity sports.
But that’s a conversation that’s yet to be had, he said, and one he plans on having as early as Tuesday.
“I would like to have that position filled,” Mattson said. “If it comes down to a short-term interim, regardless of who that is, do I have the trust for Nate to get that done? Without question. But it has to be without taking focus away from football season.”
Sneed took over the football team this season after Jerry Angers stepped down for family reasons as well.