SANFORD — There’s another head coaching opening at Southern Lee.
And this time, it is one of the school’s most successful and veteran coaches.
Cavaliers baseball coach Matt Burnett revealed on Friday night that he has submitted his resignation to Lee County Schools and will be moving on from Southern Lee this summer.
Burnett said that a series of changes at the school and for his family precipitated the move.
“With all the changes going on in terms of myself, my family and everything else, we felt like it would be best for me to step back and look and see if there are other options out there.”
Burnett did not specifically address what many of those changes were, but did say Southern Lee’s administration had something to do with his leaving.
“There’s been a lot of change in terms of the administration, and in terms of our program with a class that’s about to graduate after four great years,” Burnett said. “It was the right time.”
Attempts to reach Lee County Schools and Southern Lee Principal Bonnie Almond were unsuccessful Friday night.
Burnett said he is actively looking for a position that will enable him to keep teaching and coaching varsity high school baseball.
“I love teaching, and I love teaching the game of baseball,” he said. “I’m looking for another opportunity to continue with that.”
Internet rumors had been circulating for about a month that Burnett was going to be let go by the school system. Burnett had little to say about those rumors.
“Anytime somebody steps away from a job there’s always going to be rumors,” Burnett said. “I don’t think I want to address them one by one and I don’t feel like I need to address them. If I address one of them, I’d have to address them all.”
When contacted in May seeking comment about the rumors of Burnett’s contract not being renewed, Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss released a statement.
“The Board of Education is the final authority on all personnel decisions with regards to hiring, terminations, and contract nonrenewal. Those decisions will not be made until the June board meeting.”
The Board meets on Tuesday.
Burnett was Southern Lee’s second baseball coach, taking over after the program’s first coach Carl Boykin resigned for health reasons. After a successful run as the pitching coach at perennial powerhouse Western Guilford, Burnett built the Cavaliers into one of the top-echelon teams in the Cape Fear Valley Conference.
He guided the Cavaliers to a 62-39 record in his four seasons at the helm, good for a .614 winning percentage. Southern Lee has won at least 15 games in each of the last three seasons under Burnett and went to the state playoffs in her of his four seasons. The Cavaliers won the conference championship in Burnett’s second year in 2008, leading to his receiving the league’s Coach of the Year award. Southern Lee never finished lower than fourth in the conference standings with Burnett.
Burnett said he will have fond memories of his time at Southern Lee.
“I’ll always be thankful to Southern Lee, to (former principal) Hans Lassiter and to (former principal) Rob Dietrich for all of their support,” Burnett said. “I’m thankful to all the parents and to the players for taking the program where we did.
“I just felt like it was time to step away.”
Burnett said he will miss his players the most.
“I love those kids,” he said. “There’s a lot for them to be proud of; they are all an integral part of a Southern Lee baseball tradition that hopefully will continue forever and ever. Those guys did everything right and did everything that was ever asked of them for four years.
“They’ve got a friend for all of their lives in me. I’ll always be just a phone call away if there’s ever anything they need.”
Burnett is the second high-profile coach to resign from Southern Lee in the last two months. On May 18, football coach Eric Puryear stepped down after months of rumors swirling about his job status. Puryear lasted just a year at Southern Lee, a winless season that came on the heels of another former football coach, Bill Maczko, was forced out of the program after a single season in 2008.