Don Blackmon, coach of Winter Park’s 2014 boys basketball state championship team, announced Wednesday that he is leaving coaching to focus on academics.
Blackmon, who coached the Wildcats to 79 wins in four seasons, is becoming the coordinator of Winter Park’s growing International Baccalaureate program, which offers high-end college preparatory classes to about 500 students yearly.
“This is high-stakes academics. It’s something I need to be focused on and give my full attention,” Blackmon said in a phone interview. “I’ve been an athletic director and I sort of compare this to the same level if not on a larger scale.”
He was scheduled to tell Winter Park basketball players at an open gym session after school on Wednesday that he would be stepping down.
Blackmon’s first season as Wildcats head coach, 2013-14, ended with a surprise Class 9A state championship that was the third in five years for the program. Winter Park was 29-3 that season, then 19-10 and 21-10 with district titles the next two seasons and a state semifinal showing in 2016. The Wildcats, beset with injuries and inconsistency, slumped to 10-16 last season and were knocked out in their first postseason game.
“I’ve been extremely honored and humbled to be a part of this basketball program for the past four years,” Blackmon said.
Winter Park athletic director Mike Brown said he fielded more than 70 resumes before naming Blackmon to the job and expects another avalanche of interest.
“As soon as we put this out to the public, we’ll start advertising for a coach,” Brown said.
Blackmon said he become “intimately involved” with IB because his daughter was in the program from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“This is an opportunity I’ve been dreaming of for years,” he said. “You’ll probably see me watching a lot more games now, with a big smile on my face.”
Winter Park principal Tim Smith said Blackmon takes over a program that became larger with an IB Career path for juniors and seniors now added to the IB Diploma track.
“The demands of the job are significant,” Smith said. “Don was already heavily involved and put a lot of heart and soul into implementing our program.”