South Royalton’s Gillam Steps Down
South Royalton coach Stretch Gillam talks to his players during a game in January. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Robert "Stretch" Gillam, of Enfield Center. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
South Royalton — The latest basketball coaching tenure of Robert “Stretch” Gillam has come to an abrupt end.
Gillam resigned as South Royalton High’s boys basketball coach on Monday, the first day of practice for the upcoming season. It came as a bolt out of the blue for athletic director Jeff Moreno, who returned to school from Thanksgiving break to find a message from Gilliam seeking to talk.
Both Moreno and Gillam characterized the resignation as one built on “personal reasons.” Gillam provided no further context in a phone interview yesterday other than to confirm health was not an issue.
“It’s a personal problem that I don’t want to talk about,” said Gillam, 78. “I’ve been anticipating it most of the summer, and it really kind of came to (this point).”
Moreno said second-year junior varsity coach Ross DeMasi and freshman coach Kevin Ritchie have stepped up to take over the Royals’ early workouts. Neither will succeed Gillam, who went 9-13 last winter and guided South Royalton to the Vermont Division IV quarterfinals.
“We’re thrilled with the job he did and we wish him all the best,” Moreno said. “He’s healthy. I know the kids were all concerned about maybe his health had declined, but he’s healthy and I think they would have been happy to have him coach this season.”
Gillam has nearly six full decades invested in high school basketball coaching in the Upper Valley. His career includes more than 600 victories spread out over 17 years at Kimball Union Academy, 18 at Hartford High (Moreno played for Gillam there) and nine each at Oxbow and Green Mountain Union High in Chester, Vt., in addition to last winter in South Royalton.
Gillam was inducted into the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association hall of fame in 2008. He accepted Moreno’s offer to join the Royals last year in part to reduce the 45-minute commute to Green Mountain from his White River Junction home.
Asked if his reasons for leaving South Royalton were of a legal nature, Gillam said, “Not quite yet.”
“I kind of have to work this out a little bit,” he added. “If I get my personal things in order, I would entertain doing it (coaching) again.”
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.