Darren Fenn said stepping down as boys basketball coach at Nichols was a tough call, but in the end he had to do what he felt was best for his future.
So he made a business decision, and Nichols' loss could potentially be Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association rival St. Mary's of Lancaster's gain.
Fenn is no long coach of the Vikings – a team he led to the Manhattan Cup Class B final and the No. 9 ranking in the final News Small Schools poll with a 14-14 mark.
He leaves that post after one season to become director of basketball operations and facilities coordinator at St. Mary's. In accepting the position, he also plans to move his business – WNY Premier Basketball Training – into the Lancers' spacious athletic facility. He has operated it out of the Southtowns Tennis Center the past two years.
While Fenn becomes director of basketball operations, he is not serving as head coach for any of St. Mary's teams. Paul Rath and Jason Kline are the boys and girls varsity coaches, respectively, for the Lancers.
Part of Fenn's duties, however, will be to work with the boys and girls coaches for varsity and junior varsity teams at the school – helping them prepare for practices and games. He also will help promote the growth of the sport inside the school and the plan includes him helping St. Mary's put together camps and clinics.
"They approached me after the season to see if I'd be interested in working out of their facility," said Fenn, the former Canisius High and Canisius College star who played professional basketball overseas for 14 years before returning to the area to promote the growth of basketball in the area with his training academy.
"Nichols fought hard to keep me as a coach but in the end I had to do what's best for my business," Fenn said.
Nichols Athletic Director Rob Stewart said the school will miss him.
"He had an opportunity to run his business out of there," Stewart said. "Unfortunately, he couldn't do both (run it at St. Mary's and coach at Nichols). ... We thought he'd be here long term and I think that was his plan too, but things happen."
Fenn said he enjoyed working out of Southtowns Tennis Center but St. Mary's facility is bigger and offers better logistics for his growing enterprise. Fenn has trained more than 400 clients from ages 6 on up since opening his business.
"Every decision I have made in business thus far is a means to grow the game of basketball in Western New York," Fenn said. "The opportunities St. Mary's offers with its state of the art facility and their commitment to their student-athletes, really makes the decision to become a member of the Lancer family a no-brainer."
"I think it's a good thing he's involved," Rath said. "We haven't sat down and discussed any details but … he has a wealth of knowledge to share."
Ironically, Fenn's business led to him becoming a late successor to John Reinholz at Nichols. Reinholz stepped down as coach last September, after guiding the program to its second Manhattan Cup title in three years. At the time of Reinholz's departure, several members of the Vikings had been training with Fenn during the offseason – making him familiar with their personnel and the choice to take over one of Western New York's signature programs.
Fenn guided Nichols to the Manhattan Cup final – its fourth straight title-game appearance – where it dropped a 64-61 decision to the Lancers. St. Mary's captured the school's first Manhattan Cup in the process.
Girls varsity coach Kline guided the Lancers to a 19-5 mark and the Monsignor Martin Class A semifinals, where it lost to powerhouse Cardinal O'Hara.
With him operating out of St. Mary's, that could perhaps boost enrollment at the private school – especially since youths and their parents will get a glimpse of what the school has to offer athletically and academically.
"It's a win-win," Rath said. "He does a great job with his camp and if the school can benefit, why not?"