Tom Diener was fooling himself.
Since the end of the basketball season, he thought daily about his coaching future and thought there was a way he could fit it all in: coach his team, watch his son play college ball two hours away and follow the high school careers of his two youngest daughters.
Diener has done some masterful work in his three decades of coaching boys basketball, but eventually he realized that was a task that not even he could handle. He had to give up something and it wasn’t going to be the chance to watch his kids compete.
Coaching lost out.
“It’s just too much of a conflict to do it,” he said.
Wednesday afternoon Diener, 60, closed the book on the latest chapter of his career when he announced his resignation as Cedarburg boys basketball coach after five seasons. He made the announcement through an email he sent to parents in the program.
The news doesn’t come as a surprise. Diener’s son, John, a four-time all-state guard, will graduate this year and play his college ball at DePaul. His daughters attend Cedarburg and will play basketball and tennis next year. Katie will be a junior and Clare a freshman.
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Diener leaves with an 81-24 mark at Cedarburg and 537 victories overall. He won five state titles at Milwaukee Vincent and led Milwaukee Hamilton and Cedarburg to the state tournament. A handful of his players went on to the NBA, the most recent being Golden State Warrior Kevon Looney, a Hamilton graduate.
Diener’s career has been marked by his ability to turnaround struggling programs or revive proud ones that had hit a lull. It happened at Vincent, where he won his state titles from 1996-’01 and went 313-60 in 15 seasons. It happened at Milwaukee Hamilton, which he led to two state tournaments and a 100-24 record in five years.
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When he came to Cedarburg before the 2013-’14 season, the Bulldogs were coming off a 7-17 season and had just one winning season in six years.
Playing a number of freshman, Diener’s first team at Cedarburg went 5-16. That group steadily improved, however. The next year, with John Diener as a freshman, the Bulldogs won 12 games. In Year 3, the total jumped to 20. In 2016-’17, the Bulldogs went 25-3 and reached the Division 2 state championship game, losing to La Crosse Central, 55-53.
This past season Cedarburg finished 19-5 and won its second straight North Shore Conference title.
“We really worked hard,” the coach said. “This group we had a Cedarburg, we rolled up our sleeves right away from Day 1 and we worked hard all year round. We had open gyms and summer camps. We just really kept at it every day and kept grinding away.
“I can’t say enough about the kids that played for me at Cedarburg in terms of their work ethic and their focus and their determination.”
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Have we seen the last of Diener as a head coach? He plans to be on the sidelines or in the stands watching his kids play next school year, saying he is ‘”99.9%” sure he won’t coach next year.
Diener, however, does have some interest in coaching his daughters. He is currently serves the coach of Clare’s team with the Wisconsin Blizzard program.
In his email to the parents, Diener thanked athletic director Jon Hannam for his supported and pledged to help the transition to a new coach go smoothly, noting that open gyms will continue as well as the team’s participation in Homestead’s summer league. He also plans to conduct one last varsity basketball camp at school.
“Christina and I would like to thank the many people that have supported our family over the last five years,” Diener wrote. “Our family has flourished in the Cedarburg School District.”