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Coaching carousel hits Six Rivers
File photo Black Hawk boys basketball coach Jerry Mortimer, who had 377 career wins, is one of five coaches who retired or resigned in the Six Rivers East Conference this year.
The Six Rivers East Conference is undergoing a coaching shakeup as the conference will have at least five new basketball coaches drawing up plays on the court next season.

For district administrators, there isn't much of an offseason as 71 percent of the schools in the conference have filled or will plug coaching vacancies. Five coaches including, Black Hawk's Jerry Mortimer, Monticello's Brad Pickett, Argyle's Travis Erickson, Juda's Andy Werner and Pecatonica's Jim Syse have either resigned or retired from coaching stemming from family reasons to a desire to coach in the same district they teach.

Black Hawk has found its successor to long-time coach Mortimer as the district tabbed Kyle Bille of Monroe as its next coach. Bille coached three years of junior varsity boys basketball at Argyle. He has coached freshmen boys basketball at Central Wisconsin Christian and he also coached seventh grade boys basketball at Mineral Point last year.

"The ultimate goal was to coach at the varsity level," Bille said, who also served as a varsity assistant coach at Argyle under Erickson. "I have big shoes to fill. I'm looking forward to it. I will hopefully live up to the standard that he (Mortimer) set at the school and in the conference. I'm going to set my own standard."

Bille said that the five summer contact days in basketball are critical to start learning the offense and defense so the Warriors can hit the ground running and be ready in November as some schools are still searching for a coach.

In one of the biggest surprises, Monticello coach Brad Pickett resigned in May after guiding the Ponies to a Six Rivers East Conference title. Pickett will coach the Brodhead girls basketball team in the same district he teaches in.

"It was a tough decision to leave the guys in Monticello," Pickett said, whose team went from two wins his first year in Monticello to conference champions. "They have done a great job of turning that program around. Without those guys, we would not have had the accomplishments we did. The chance to work with the Brodhead girls, I'm really looking forward to it."

Pickett doesn't attribute the high coaching turnover to burnout.

"Obviously, coach Mortimer felt it was the right time to step down," Pickett said. "He earned the right to do whatever he wanted to do when it came to coaching in Black Hawk."

Argyle will also have a new look next season as Erickson resigned as boys basketball coach. Argyle has hired Kurt Ritschard to coach next year. Erickson served as an athletic director, teacher, basketball and baseball coach last year.

"I was just not home so many nights," Erickson said. "I had to narrow my commitment a little. It's for the kids. That made me think it over a million times. That certainly wasn't the easiest thing to give up."

Ritschard is a 2002 Argyle alum who was a three sport standout.

"I think it was just the cycle," Erickson said when trying to explain the coaching turnover this summer. "I don't think it was burnout. It's tough as a basketball coach. If you don't get your guys playing 12 months, it hurts you in January, February and March."

Werner stepped down as boys basketball coach at Juda since he is moving back to the Green Bay area.

Phillip Trotter, the Juda Athletic Director, said that the district will probably start interviewing coaching candidates in a week or two after the superintendent returns from vacation. The coaching position hasn't been posted yet.

Syse, 57, who coached at Pecatonica the last two years, resigned, to spend more time with family and he knows the program needs a young leader.

"I'm older to be a head varsity coach," Syse said. "When I took it, I was just trying to help out the school. It's a younger man's job. It's a long season. It's better for the program to have someone younger who will build the program."