Pine City Basketball Coach Wicktor’s Contract Not Being Renewed

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 9:42 am

In a surprising development, the head coach for Pine City’s Boys Varsity Basketball team has found out his contract won’t be renewed. Eric Wicktor, who has coached the Dragons for nine seasons, has been told he will no longer be serving in that capacity for the 2011-12 season.

A person very close to the situation tells WCMP that Wicktor was “shocked when he found out,” and that the players whom he has coached have universally “loved and respected him.”  The same source says it’s a bizarre situation because it doesn’t appear that the school board has a replacement in mind. This unnamed source believes the action may be the result of “one or two very vocal parents” who pushed hard for Wicktor’s ouster.

Apparently Wicktor was notified of the decision just prior to Easter break.

Pine City Schools Superintendent Dennis Fischer (who has had 3 sons play for Wicktor) and Principal George Johnson were not immediately available for comment, however we have left messages for both men.

Wicktor is the second-longest tenured coach in the Great River Conference (next to Braham’s legendary coach Bob Vaughan), and led the Dragons to winning seasons in four of the last six campaigns (prior records unavailable). The team’s best year under Wicktor’s direction was 2007-08 when the Dragons went 24-6 and lost in the Section Championship Game to Braham by 4 points. That season Pine City was 15-1 in conference play.

The Dragons had a bit of a down season in 2010-11, finishing with a 9-18 record and losing their last 7 games. Pine City’s conference record was 9-7 though, good enough for third place ahead of teams in Isle, Rush City, Aitkin, Hinckley-Finlayson, Onamia and Ogilvie. The Dragons were 0-11 out of conference.

WCMP is also reporting that Wicktor intends to contest this decision, likely in front of the school board at the next meeting.

Wicktor is very well liked in the community, and often spends much of his downtime working with kids as young as third grade on their basketball skills – in hopes of building the program up for long-term success. His passion and infectious leadership style have endeared him to players and parents alike.

Unlike teaching jobs where tenure can prevent teachers from being fired, positions like Wicktor’s are renewed on an annual basis.

(Picture taken from Pine City High School’s Website)


  1. Mike Ryan 04/26/11 at 10:36am

    This is an outrage! Mr. Wicktor has everything needed to be a great coach, passion, knowledge, and he’s great with the kids. I hope this decision isn’t based on a few parents displeasure, but I can’t imagine where else it would come from. When he appeals the decision officially,
    I hope rational thinking will be the guide that re-instates him.
    Mike Ryan

  2. James Lowe 04/26/11 at 12:14pm

    No offense to Mr Wicktor, but his style of play may work inside our conference, but our record outside of it is proof that it doesn’t get it done. With a lack of innovation and decipline often displayed by his teams, I agree with the decision and wish the program good luck in finding a replacement.

  3. FP 04/26/11 at 12:25pm

    This may be the most brilliant thing Pine City could have done. Take a guy that is a great member of the community, has coached for years with kids that listen and enjoy learning from him and has had success with his teams…and give him the boot. Hats off again to Pine City schools, lets get that program down to where it needs to be.
    P.s. One or Two loudmouth parents arent going to like any coach.

  4. Nathan Johnson 04/26/11 at 12:40pm

    Coach Wicktor had a dynamite reputation among the athletes he’s coached that I’ve spoken to. It was definitely enjoyable to watch him make a difference in these young men’s lives.

  5. Unknown 04/26/11 at 12:55pm

    I think that this is REALLY dumb of them to do. Wicktor is a great teacher, a very respectful person, and from the way it seems he is a great coach. I have never had Wicktor as a coach, but i know that the students like him, and he is also a prominent figure in our community.

  6. Unhappy 04/26/11 at 3:06pm


  7. Gale and Lois Falk 04/26/11 at 6:08pm

    What a unfortunate situation when a successful and well-liked coach is dismissed from his coaching positon. How can a school board let themselves be persuaded by “one or two very vocal parents”? Is not the school board elected by the community and therefore represented by the majority of the people? It is most unfortunate that a decision of this magnitude was decided in this manner and we strongly recommend that it be reviewed and re-evaluated.

  8. Another PC Mom 04/27/11 at 8:09am

    I can not believe this decision. If it is based on parents opionions then they should consider all of us parents including those of us that think Mr Wicktor is an asset. He is very respected by the kids and not because he is their friend, he is respected because he expects they learn in and outside of the class room and helps them to do so. Life isn’t always fair and I am very sad for Mr Wicktor. Wick, know you still have people behind you and I am thankful for all you have done for my family. Stay tough!

  9. Scootch 04/27/11 at 8:19am

    This past year our youngest son was fortunate enough to participate in an after school Basketball camp offered to the Elementary aged children that coached by Coach Wicktor. All our son talked about was the fun it was learning how to dribble and throw the ball. I feel that Coach Wicktor’s ability to work with all ages and make them feel successful in their achievements should be recognised by the school board, not just complaints “one or two very vocal parents”.

  10. DL685 04/27/11 at 8:54am

    No offense to James Lowe, but I would love to see your coaching credentials. Beating schools in our conference is great. Maybe you should step up and take this team to the state championship.

  11. Lyndon Hagestuen 04/27/11 at 8:59am

    As one who has watched many high school basketball games at Pine City, it has been a pleasure to watch the the young men under the direction of coach Wicktor grow not only in their basketball skills but also grow in personal maturity and life skills. While it is quite difficult to understand the need for termination of Eric’s contract, it is even harder to comprehend the method and means which the termination was “handled”.
    While trust, respect and above all professionalism are expected of the staff at Pine City Schools,the community should certainly expect these attributes from their administration and school board also. One would certainly hope that calmer and wiser people will reconsider this decision and certainly handle the issue in a much more professional manner. Lyndon Hagestuen

  12. Sad Parent 04/27/11 at 10:58am

    My boys all play basketball and are very sad about this decision; they have mentioned possibly not even wanting to continue playing. Coach Wicktor has done a fabulous job and most seasons have been successful; keep in mind, Mr. Lowe, you also need talented players to make a successful team and have a winning season. If players do not have the athleticism, the skills, and the ability to understand and run the plays, it won’t happen.
    Very sad for the community and the kids. Unfortunate that it seems that the “squeaky wheel always gets the grease!”

  13. Sad Parent 04/27/11 at 2:36pm

    The community calendar says that the next school board meeting is Monday, May 9. These are held in the elementary school media center. I feel that we should pack the media center in support of Wick! Anyone with me??

  14. PC Coach 04/27/11 at 6:13pm

    I don’t understand where the school board sees that this action is going to benefit the current basketball program. Who do they have to fill his place? As far as I know the board will not fill his postion with a coach outside the current Pine City teacher facuilty. Are there any better coaches currently on the payroll? This something we will go through in another 4 years because there are just some parents that will never be happy.

    This is a shame how Coach Wictor, who is active commumity and has the respect of both young and old is being thrown aside because of few parents that think their kids are better than the coaching.

  15. PC dad 04/27/11 at 6:59pm

    Our family is also very disappointed in the decision of the PC School District. Our boys have attended numerous basketball camps put on by Coach Wicktor. He takes the time to develop the skills of individual players and also gets to know each kid at the camps. Basketball success cannot be measured by wins and loses alone. Coaches cannot force players to be in the gym in the off season, or to work on their shooting skills outside of practice. Otherwise you will have another set of parents upset with you. If it is a few parents who swayed the athletic director or superintendent to make this decision, then maybe they need to be contacted by a lot of parents expressing their approval and support of the work Coach Wicktor has done for the basketball program.

  16. shon roberts 04/27/11 at 8:14pm

    Its sad, that this stuff still happens. Just because the minority shouts louder or has more influence than the majority. So speak up people if you think this is wrong, like me. I’ve seen this stuff happen before at schools and its unethical, they should be ashamed of themselves. Good Luck Wicktor!

  17. PCMOM 04/28/11 at 9:57am

    PC DAD says it very well. My kids were not in the basketball program but did have Mr. Wicktor as a teacher. He has always been a strong example to all the students, in the classroom, on or off the court- For those of you with children still in the school system you may want to voice your support for Wicktor at the next school board meeting!

  18. Player44 04/28/11 at 10:37am

    I heard they fired him because Phil Jackson showed interest in the Dragon program after the NBA season.

  19. Anonymous 04/28/11 at 11:35am

    Sometimes great people don’t make great coaches. It is what it is, it’s time to move on.

  20. Very weary fan 04/28/11 at 1:51pm

    The fact that Mr. Wicktor is a good person, fun and cares about others is not what qualifies him to be a head coach, if it is, I have lots of people to recommend as his replacement. His personality does not make up for the lack of knowledge it takes to be a successful varsity level basketball coach. And by successful, I mean being able to compete without getting beat by 30-40 points. Ask our current coach to demonstrate certain high level varsity level basketball skills and develop his players to be able to demonstrate these skills on the court and compete at both the local and the section tournament level. Also, be able to “out-coach” the opponent’s coach by make adjustments during a game that gives us a win instead of another loss. That is what a varsity basketball coach needs to bring to the coaching table. If he cannot, our players deserve the opportunity to be coached by someone who can do this. Repeatedly shouting, “don’t shoot!” during the games to some of his players shows his lack of confidence in these players, and his inability to develop basketball skills in his players. A basketball game is won by the team who makes the most baskets, shooting is required. Why do we keep score if that is not important? Why don’t we just keep a log on who is being the nicest coach/players? Replacing a coach is common practice for programs that aren’t competetive, there is no shame in being replaced as a coach. These types of decisions are not based on input from a couple of disgruntled parents. They are decisions made over a long period of time. This decision should be no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the Pine City boy’s basketball program. I look forward to a change.

  21. Puzzled Tax Payer 04/28/11 at 2:34pm

    I’m puzzled and very concerned that the school representives would make such a decision based on a few complaints. Is this how they handle all decisions? Prehaps the content of the complaints should be made public, therefore the parents/tax payers could decide if it truly was a necessary decision or to quiet a few outlandish, trouble-making parents. It’s very sad that a Leader/Coach as Mr. Wicktor sounds to be is terminated, when kids need all the support and guideance they can get. I hope this situation turns out well. To the school decision makers, I hope that you put full and best-for-the-students/school thoughts into every decision you make — that is what you are there for. Best wishes.

  22. Tim Falk 04/28/11 at 4:29pm

    How dissapointing for the parents, players, and of course coach Wicktor. Should not the school board,superintendant or whoevermade this decision be held accountable? I hope the next school board meeting is filled to capacity and they can explain or justify this decision to Wick and all in attendance. Stand up and be heard and don’t let the vocal minority make the rules and decisions for the majority! Go coach Wicktor!

  23. Sad Parent 04/29/11 at 8:13am

    Exactly….the school board members need to justify this decision. The talk all over town is that one or two parents got this ball rolling with their complaints and the superintendent was on board with them. That is not the way to fire a coach. I hope they get many positive letters and words in support of Coach Wicktor, and that the positive outweighs the negative!

  24. Mike Ryan 04/29/11 at 8:22am

    Wow, this has spawned quite a debate and brought out some strong feelings both for and against Coach Wicktor. The season of 2007-08 the team went 24-6 and lost to power house Braham by 4 in the section final, awesome. Was this because we had exceptional athletes or Coach Wicktor’s coaching ability? If loosing is a coaching problem then who is responsible for winning? How about the PC hockey team who went from bad to worse after hiring a new coach? Who’s to blame there? Is there any continuity in our thinking or is it a case by case basis? Come on PC, what gives?

  25. Mike Ryan 04/29/11 at 8:29am

    In my last comment I should have said PC hockey hired not only a new coach but hired new coaches, one of which was me.

  26. Another Weary Fan 04/30/11 at 4:28am

    Mr. Wicktor is a great teacher….. Even I won’t dispute that. My daughter felt he helped her become a better student…… NOBODY is debating his teaching credentials in the classroom, but in the wonderful world of sports (High School, College and Professional)a coach is always measured by “What have you done for us lately”….. The 2007-08 season was magical no doubt, but let’s take a closer look…. Coach Wicktor had a very special group of kids who had the mental make-up as well as physical ability to compete with everyone. Teams like that happen every once in a while in small towns like this. Now unfortunately, his latest group of players might be lacking in that “Mental” part of the equation…… They might be more gifted athletes than the 2007-08 team….who knows, but for whatever reason, these kids could not compete at the same level…… Every coach knows that he or she will be held accountable for the almighty “W” as well as the “L”…….. Let’s go on a little journey folks, about 5 years ago….. PC had a softball team that was very “Special”…. Back-to-Back trips to the State Tournament…. Those two teams had 5-6 “Special” players each year that had it both mentally and physically… of course it didn’t hurt having a pitcher like Rhiannon Sauter either…. My question to everyone is this… How many State Tournaments has Mr. Wicktor taken his teams to play in ???…… Sometimes change is good…… I hope the school looks outside their walls for a new coach……

  27. Karen 04/30/11 at 3:00pm

    Seems to me that school sports should be a collective effort – child, parent and coach. I hope all you parents and students show your support by going to the board meeting and make someone give some good answers! Good luck coach!

  28. Another Weary Fan 05/2/11 at 2:32am

    I would like to see everybody take a step back for a second and realize the need for change….. A lot of coaches have programs for the younger kids in their towns to try and promote and enhance their programs. One of the “BEST” at this is Bob Vaughn of Braham. At most of the Braham games, they have a game with younger kids delighting the crowd. When you looked closer, those kids were running the same plays as the Varsity and JV teams….. 3rd and 4th graders were understanding Bob’s philosphy…… I never saw that from Mr. Wicktor’s program….. too many times I see kid’s (on the Varsity and JV level) standing around during a game looking confused, unsure of where they should be……. Mr. Wicktor comes across as somebody who does care about our kids and wants to see them become better students. Unfortunately, his system seems to be too complex. If it were simple, our kids in his youth program would be able to run his plays in their sleep….. just as the kids in Braham already do in Bob’s system…… Let’s find somebody new, who can build a simplified system that all levels of kids can understand and enjoy…… New blood will also give all the kids a fair chance to play…… It won’t matter if your Dad or Mom is a teacher…. or the son of the banker…. or…. you get my drift. Change is good !!!

  29. a weary PCMOM 05/3/11 at 8:47am

    And winning is EVERYTHING… remember. Isn’t that what you really want the school to teach our kids? Not tenacity, perserverance, good work ethic… but just WIN!
    I’ll stick with the Fine Arts program, thank you very much.

  30. Come on Pine City 05/3/11 at 10:17am

    People ….. Do you really believe this decision is based a few disgruntled parents ??? Eric Wicktor is one man….. People keep bringing up the 2007-08 season. That was one year where everything fell into place…. You all act like he “Parted the Red Sea” with the wave of his staff. Eric Wicktor is a part of a bigger problem at Pine City High School.
    We live in a rural setting by choice so we should be willing to accept our fate. We do not have 100 kids trying out for basketball, volleyball, hockey or any of the other extra curricular events offered at Pine City. Most of our kids involved with athletics are 3 sport athletes. The kids are being put into tough situations by their coaches during the off season. Last time I looked, summer was time for Family vacations. My kids loved to go camping and fishing with their Uncle on a whim as well as playing baseball or softball. Now these things become harder because coaches (who have teams playing in the fall or winter)schedule summer leagues or camps… AND if your child chooses to be with his family or play baseball or softball, the coaches hold that against them when it comes to playing time. I remember back when my daughters were a member of Tom Kloeckl’s softball program (2003-2006). You could see they were building something special, but it was difficult to get the team together for summer league…. Why ??? Because the basketball coaches and volleyball coach felt it was necessary to run their basketball camps and summer leagues at the same time. The kids are being forced to make choices at a time in their lives when they shouldn’t have to……. Many a Monday night, Tom would go over to Mora with just enough players to field a team. A couple of times they had to borrow players from other teams just so there weren’t any gaps in the field….. Tom always put “Family” before anything, so the girls knew they were not tied down and forced to participate on a weekly basis…… Losing a young lady because her parents were taking the family to Wisconsin Dells never bothered me, but losing them because of basketball/volleyball summer league did…. Sometimes I wonder just how good those teams could have been had they been able to keep most of the kids playing softball instead of going to Basketball/Volleyball Summer Leagues….. If I’m not mistaken, I think I read that Mr. Kloeckl took his 2006 and 2007 teams to the State Tournament. I want my kids to BE kids and enjoy their lives in the Rural setting. They love going to movies with their friends, going fishing and camping with their Uncle, having a their friends over for a bonfire or doing a family outing to Dairy Queen…. They shouldn’t have to worry if Coach Wicktor or any of the Fall/Winter coaches will take playing time away from them because they choose to be a kid…

  31. Taxman31 05/3/11 at 12:26pm

    Weary Fan, go to braham and give Bob a gold star for a job well done.

  32. Diane Hansen 05/3/11 at 2:39pm

    The controversy over the non-renewal of Coach Eric Wicktor as the head boys’ basketball coach has caused me to reflect on his impact on the lives of my three sons,“The Lutz Boys.” Coach Wicktor has supported my sons off the basketball court as much as he did on the court. He was and continues to be a great role model, both as teacher and coach.
    My oldest son, Chris, was not a star basketball player, but, he appreciated being part of the team. Chris is now a teacher and coach himself. Even though he graduated eight years ago Eric still takes time to answer any questions Chris has on teaching, coaching, or buying a house. Coach Wicktor is an incredible advocate for his players whether they are 6 or 26.
    Coach Wicktor doesn’t cut players from his team because they lack athletic ability. He realizes that for some students suffering from difficult home lives or other unfortunate circumstances in their lives, it is important to be part of a team. I have seen my sons follow Coach Wicktor’s example and reach out to others, giving their teammates rides home, helping them with homework, etc. I have seen them interact with genuine caring and respect with young players in Wicktor’s Basketball Buddy program. I am more proud of my sons for these actions than any successes they have had on the basketball court. Basketball careers are short. The development of strong, caring, respectful citizens lasts a lifetime.
    As a parent I appreciate not only Coach Wicktor, but all the wonderful teachers and coaches we have in our district who realize the importance of developing the whole person and not just their athletic skills. My four children have been incredibly blessed with teachers and coaches that supported them academically, athletically, musically, and emotionally.

    Diane Hansen
    Pine City

  33. Mr. Lets Putitallinperspective 05/7/11 at 9:11am

    1. Somehow we’ve developed a culture of “win at all costs” with CERTAIN sports, namely football and basketball. Why isn’t anybody firing the coaches of all our other under-performing activities? There is no consistency. If coaches deserve to be fired for having a medicre season or two, where does it end. And where is the educational value in any of this. I though were were dealing with an institution of public EDUCATION!?

    2. It is so true that coaches and administrators continue to put so much emphasis on their sport and winning that these kids are becoming one-sport athletes or being torn apart. We are too small of a town for this to work. Kids can and should be allowed to play three sports (and do other activities, too!) without feeling like they have to choose or are letting down a certain coach. Back in the day, the basketball coach ENCOURAGED kids to play football or volleyball to get them in shape for the upcoming season. Off-season sports shouldn’t replace in-season sports. It’s a recipe for disaster and watering down our talent pool.

    3. Eric Wicktor teaches kids a lot more than just basketball skills. And I’m not just saying that to cover up for a “mediocre” coach. He’s a GOOD coach and he teaches kids about what it means to be successful in school and life. The lessons he teaches go far beyond the win and loss columns of this season’s disappointing season. These kids aren’t going NBA… not even basketball “God” Bob Vaughan’s kids have made it to the NBA. Basketball (nor any other single activity) should be the be-all-and-end-all and Wick gets this – he wants kids to be well rounded. Thank goodness he has perspective.

    4. I’ve heard that Wick was getting pressure to do more off-season stuff and he has resisted because (in part) his family comes first. I admire that a lot. They may fire you but you’re a much bigger person than any of these (few) whiny parents. Stay classy, Wick. Stiff upper lip. And thanks for all you do.

  34. Randy Henkel 05/12/11 at 6:42pm

    It’s interesting what all the parents have to say. I believe that thru out the years there have been numerous complaints as in 7 years of complaints in letters and in private meetings. Think about that 7 years of complaints. And no that is not normal. I was told by my now adult children and as I have witnessed, the injustices and the childish behavior of Eric Wicktor. When a COACH tells players that you kids aren’t up to my coaching ability and when kids tell you that he lies, that is disturbing! Isn’t the COACH/Adult suppose to be team building!! And don’t ever talk to Coach Wicktor about your kids playing time because he holds a grudge and he holds it for YEARS. He stil to this day won’t talk with my kids when the come into adult night at the gym. He plays favorites no matter what anybody thinks. The child that comes to him and talks to him like they are best buds will come out with more playing time on the court. When my oldest son, played he was a starter and a good player and had until he got hurt in his senior year, was the best freethrow and rebounder for that year. He played basketball since 5th grade and worked hard to get where he was. But when it came time for the basketball seniors last dinner at the pizza pub, Erik Wicktor did not give him any of the recognition or any awards for what he had done. This was because I got into a discussion with him over some of the crap he has done thru out the years and he took it out on MY KIDS. He is a baby and needs to grow up. I’m glad he’s out and I hope he looks for a job in another community. GOOD RIDDANCE! YES, I’m angry and I’m sick of everybody treating him like he didn’t deserve what he got.

  35. Wicktor fooled everyone 05/13/11 at 8:49pm

    Eric Wicktor fooled everyone, including his fellow comrades in coaches, i.e. Coach Bob Vaughn who spoke on his behalf that evening. If he really knew the man behind the mask. How he must feel now being duped into believing otherwise? What a very sad situation for all the kids.

  36. Yellow Rose 05/19/11 at 8:44am

    To Ms. Menigo:

    I hope all the district voters now understand that you base important, life-altering decisions on rumor and hearsay.

    What I HEARD about Coach Wicktor is that he benches player for bad spelling. Those who keep trying to put an “I” in “teamwork” don’t play for his team.

  37. Keeping this in Perspective 06/1/11 at 8:31am

    Since this whole thing started, we have all heard people from both sides voice their opinions on the matter. Everyone has the RIGHT to have their own opinion. From what I have gathered, Mr. Henkel, is VERY angry….. I have talked with several teachers who feel Mr. Wicktor is getting treated unfairly. The only thing that really bothers me is how this whole thing seems has turned into a crusade against “Teacher’s Kid’s”….. Too many people have issues with this and this is where I feel people are losing their perspective. The comments here are suppose to be about Wicktor not getting his contract renewed by the school, not about teacher’s kids. I can see where people may feel that way, but it is unfair to a lot of teachers, who have kids in the PC system. I have lived in PC a little over 10 years and I can name a handful of student athletes who got their rocognition due to HARD work on the field or on the court. Let’s see…. Mr. Fischer has two son’s that graduated an;d both those boys earned their time. I used to see both of them with their Dad up at the baseball field working on their skills when they were probably in the 5th and 6th grades; Mrs. Hansen’s 3 boys earned their playing time as well. I remember her son Chris, at the time, a skinny little kid on the cross country/track teams trying to compete with the likes of Jared Clementson…. to Chris’ credit, he became a strong TEAM leader and had what I felt was a very successful career in both sports; Rhiannon Sauter had an incredible softball career, and if you know Mrs. Ryberg (her mother), Rhiannon learned from her Mom and her brothers about working hard to reach your goals; Jenna Olson was a phenominal athlete who was good at everything (basketball, tennis and softball). Her mother teaches at the Elementary school and I have the ultimate respect for Katherine (she needs to get back into coaching)….. This year, I have had the chance to watch Mike Hansmann play football as well as compete on the track team and anybody who knows anything about track/field knows that Mary Anderson plays favorites….. That’s because EVERY kid on her team is her favorite. Everyone is given the same opportunities to excell… Mary just has that gift that helps bring the best out of all the kids….. See my point ??? These kids earned their right to play… Don’t turn this into a crusade against “Teacher’s Kid’s”….that is unfair. Like everyone else, I have my own opinion about Eric Wicktor…. I am behind the school board 100%. I am NOT a Wicktor Fan and I am glad he is gone before my son’s get into high school. I have actually enjoyed reading the comments people have about Wicktor…… He may have played his favorites, but to turn this into a crusade against techers kid’s is not right. If the School Board wanted my advise, They should have a summer seminar with ALL their coaches….. and let Mary Anderson and Katherine Olson facilitate the seminar, and then they should consider Katherine as a canidate for the boys head coaching position in basketball……

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