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Bliss takes job at Buhach

ATWATER -- John Bliss is trading in his black and orange for black and gold.

The Merced girls basketball coach officially accepted the boys hoop job at Buhach Colony on Thursday afternoon -- completing a controversial move engineered entirely by BC principal John Olson.

Olson ignored the recommendation of an advisory committee he created. The committee voted 5-1 in favor of promoting assistant coach Shane Gentry.

But Olson chose Bliss.

"It's exciting," said Bliss, who leaves Merced after 13 years. "At the same time, it's bittersweet because of all the great kids and great people I'm leaving at Merced.

"I've been going back and forth from being happy and not happy.

"Basically I'm excited about the opportunity at Buhach Colony. It's going to be a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too."

Bliss will join his wife, Michelle, who recently moved from Merced High to BC.

Bliss compiled a 199-105 record and won three Central California Conference championships in his 11 years at Merced.

"Buhach Colony is getting an outstanding coach and an even better teacher," Merced athletic director Scott Winton said.

Bliss got the job instead of a disappointed Gentry, who took over the program when Steve Abrams resigned in May.

Gentry became BC's first basketball coach when the school opened in 2001, and was endorsed this time around by the advisory committee and most of the players.

Twelve current basketball squad members signed a petition asking Olson to give the job to Gentry.

"I try not to take anything personally," Bliss said. "Kids are going to have concerns or worries. There's always an adjustment anytime there is going to be a change. I'm open to just about anything."

Olson did not return phone messages asking for his version of events.

"I'm not bitter. It was just unexpected," Gentry said. "I was pretty confident.

"It just seemed like the timing was right and I was in the right position.

"My daughter is going to be in ninth grade and my wife works there.

"It just took me by surprise."

Gentry said he wasn't sure whether or not he would help out with the program next year -- if Bliss asks him.

"It's still a touchy issue," he said. "I'm going to let things settle down and I'll see how I feel down the road."

Bliss, meanwhile, plans to use the same type of up-tempo style that worked with Merced's girls.

"We're going to try to implement our system," he said. "It's proven to work well with men. I don't see why it won't work there.

"It's going to be an exciting brand of basketball."