Chris Kliewer, the coach who turned a middling SM East lacrosse program into a powerhouse that won three titles in his four years at the helm, won’t be returning to the Lancers next year — and contrary to a message delivered to team parents, Kliewer says leaving the team wasn’t his decision.
Kliewer was scheduled on Monday to meet the SM East Lacrosse board for what he thought would be his annual review. He was surprised when he arrived at the meeting to find that only one board member was in attendance. That member, he said, informed him that the board wanted to go in a different direction.
“I didn’t want to leave East,” he said. “I was planning on being at East for a long time. It blindsided me.”
An email sent to lacrosse parents on Monday indicated that the decision to step down from the head coaching position was Kliewer’s and that he wanted to have more time to devote to his wife and children.
Kliewer said Wednesday he was hesitant to comment on the situation because he doesn’t “like drama” and that he was in talks with a couple of other programs “so I don’t want there to be any bad publicity.” But he acknowledged that the decision leave the the program had not been his own.
“It’s disappointing,” he said. “I hadn’t heard anything during the year about concerns. I went into the meeting thinking everything was good. They said I hadn’t done anything wrong, but that my coaching style didn’t fit East.”
In his four years as coach, Kliewer led the Lancers to a 63-17 record, with three straight titles from 2011-2013. The Lancers lost in the Lacrosse Association of Kansas City semi-finals by one goal to Pembroke Hill this season.
Because lacrosse is a club sport at SM East, administration of the program is handled by a six-member board, not by the Shawnee Mission School District or SM East’s athletics administration. Lacrosse board president Debbie Ward has not yet responded to request for comment on the situation, but we’ll update the story with any information she provides if and when we speak with her.
Kliewer is a director at Titanium Lacrosse, and serves as vice president of the US Lacrosse Great Plains Chapter.