NILES - For Rick Kover, the decision on whether or not to return for a seventh season as the Niles boys basketball coach may have come down to a smile from a 7-year-old.
Kover's daughter flashed the grin after making a play on the softball field. Kover serves as an assistant for her team, and the father-daughter moment made a tough decision a bit easier.
As a result, Niles has begun the search for a coach for the 2012-13 season.
On Friday, Kover informed his staff that he would not re-apply for the position he held for the past six years. Under Kover, the Dragons went 52-78.
Kover, who serves as a teacher at Niles McKinley High School, is also attending classes to earn his administrative license. He recently earned a Masters Degree.
"Juggling school, work, family life and coaching just got to be too much," Kover said. "I've done it for the past two years, and I don't think I could have done it a third. I'll be going to school in the summer, and that's when we have a lot of our camps and open gyms."
"It just wouldn't have been fair to myself or my players to try and come back, knowing I might not be able to give the program everything I've got."
Kover noted that he recently created "Why Return" and "Why Step Down" lists. Though his reasons for stepping down outweighed his reasons for staying, he was still struggling with his decision.
"Then recently during a softball game, my daughter did something special and gave me this smile. That was it," Kover said. "My dad was the best coach I ever had. I want to be the best coach that my two daughters ever have."
"They are involved in dance, in soccer, in softball and so many other activities. I want to be there every step of the way. I couldn't do that and still coach basketball."
Next year, Niles will return five lettermen from a team which went 3-18 this past winter. Despite the recent struggles, Kover believes the program can enjoy a quick turnaround.
"One thing about Niles kids, they'll always give you 100-percent effort. This group is no different. If the right person comes in, and he has the time to totally commit to the program, success will follow," Kover said.
Asked if he would recommend a successor, Kover said that he would like to see the job go to Niles assistant Vince Natoli, who has experience as a head coach while at Leetonia.
"Vince would give all the time in the world to this program. He knows the players, he's committed and he knows basketball," Kover said.
"That being said, I am certain our administration will make the right decision. They did a fantastic job handling the hiring process of (football coach) Brian Shaner. They'll do the same here."
Niles athletic director Marc Fritz referred to Kover as "the ultimate professional" who went above and beyond the call of duty.
"Rick did everything we asked of him and beyond. He was great with the kids. We hate to see him go, but I totally understand and respect the decision," Fritz said.
Earlier this week, Niles posted supplemental contracts for the 2012-13 school year. Fritz noted that applications will be accepted from within the district for a 15-day period. The district can then open the process to other interested applicants, if it chooses to do so.
"Ideally, we'd like to make it a quick process because of the timing," Fritz said. "We're weeks away from summer conditioning and open gyms. But at the same time, we want to be thorough and make sure we do everything possible to hire the right coach for the job."