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Bliss offered position at Buhach

John Bliss met with his Merced girls basketball team on Friday and said he might not be the coach next year.

Bliss has been offered the Buhach Colony boys basketball coaching job.

It isn't quite a done deal, and there some unhappy people on various sides of this saga -- but after 13 years at Merced, Bliss appears to be on the move.

"Thirteen years is a long time to be anywhere," said Bliss, who lives in McSwain, a development that is part of Buhach's catchment area.

"There are awesome people at Merced. I would be leaving a lot of friends. Sometimes you come to a fork in the road and you have to make a decision.

"My wife (Michelle) just took a job (at Buhach Colony). My kids will go to school there and my family is very important to me."

Buhach Colony principal John Olson called Bliss to offer him the job on Thursday.

Bliss hopes to meet with Olson and Merced Union High School District assistant superintendent Raynee Daley on Monday.

One of the obstacles is finding or creating a teaching position for Bliss at Buhach.

The school doesn't currently have an opening for a social studies teacher, so the district would have to work out some solution.

But that's not the only problem.

Bliss' potential move to BC could leave two teams and their fans profoundly unhappy.

Shane Gentry took over the Buhach Colony program when Steve Abrams resigned in May and gained significant support.

According to a source close to the Buhach program, Gentry was recommended overwhelmingly for the job by an advisory committee put together to help Olson with the hiring process.

Olson didn't return phone calls on Friday.

"I was really disappointed," Gentry said. "A couple of days ago, they told me the job was going to Bliss. That's all I know.

"I know they gave me no guarantees. What I wanted was the right thing to be done. In my mind, that was continuing with me."

Gentry was BC's first head coach when the school opened in 2001.

He basically was pushed aside when the school hired former Merced assistant Paul Van Warmerdam in 2004.

Gentry coached at Hilmar for two years before returning to help out Abrams with Buhach's lower level teams last year.

The current Buhach players -- who have been working with Gentry this summer -- were so upset to hear Gentry won't be given the job that they wrote a letter to Olson.

No less than 12 players signed the letter, which was delivered Friday.

"We are angry, confused, hurt and sad all at the same time," the players said in the letter.

"Most of all, we once again feel betrayed by adults who feel they know better than kids.

"All we know is that in a short period of time, our coach has turned us into a 'team' and as his 'team,' we owe it to him to tell you how we feel."

The team's outing to Santa Cruz this weekend for a basketball tournament originally was cancelled.

However, Gentry has agreed to supervise the trip.

"I decided to do the right thing," Gentry said. "These guys deserve the trip.

"I was torn. We were at Modesto Junior College (Thursday) night, playing Beyer and Ripon. It's difficult coaching a team that isn't yours anymore.

"When I heard about the letter, it made it real easy."

Meanwhile, the Merced girls are dealing with the possibility of losing their coach.

"It was a surprise," Merced star Deja Mann said. "It seemed like it came out of nowhere.

"We hope he stays, but we know he's going to do the best for him and his family.

"It's disappointing, but we understand where he's coming from.

"He's got three kids and a wife. He has to think about them."

Bliss admits it won't be easy if he leaves Merced.

He's compiled a 199-105 record and won three Central California Conference championships.

"I'm kind of in limbo right now," Bliss said. "I don't know what's going to happen.

"As of right now, I'm still at Merced. We'll see on Monday.

"Leaving won't be easy. We've got a strong program and I've got one of the best -- if not the best -- group I've had coming back next year.

"Sometimes things just happen. It's going to be a challenge regardless of what happens."

Buhach principal Olson may have the first challenge -- just getting this complicated and contentious move completed.

Sports editor Steve Cameron contributed to this report.

The Bliss File

CURRENT JOB: Merced girls coach

JOB OFFERED: Buhach Colony boys coach

EXPERIENCE: 11 years as head coach