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Britton resigns as coach of Panthers

Thankful for the opportunity but lacking the energy to keep going, South Medford baseball coach Tom Britton submitted his resignation Thursday night after guiding the Panthers for three years.

Britton had previously spent 29 years — 26 as head coach — at Eagle Point High before taking over the reins at South Medford.

"I just thought it's time for me to step down basically because the commitment that it requires and the energy and the time involved at this point in my career is too much," said Britton, 57. "I didn't think it was fair to the coaching staff or kids or people at South that I really respect that I stay on. I think it's time for me to move on and let a new guy come in."

Britton guided the Panthers to two straight trips to the Class 6A state playoffs after taking over in 2007. His teams went a combined 32-46 overall and 15-30 in Southwest Conference play, and fell short in the first round of the state playoffs the past two seasons.

"I wish we could've been more successful," he said, "but getting in the playoffs the last few years is something to be proud of."

Britton had the daunting task of stepping in at South Medford after the reclassification process brought teams like Sheldon and South Eugene into an already stacked baseball league.

"There's probably people that are going to debate with you which conference in the state is better, but it would be pretty hard to argue that our conference isn't one of the best," he said. "Top to bottom it's tough and I was proud of the way our kids competed. But when you're talking about Roseburg, North Medford, Sheldon, Grants Pass and South Eugene, it doesn't get any better than that."

South Medford Athletics Director Dennis Murphy praised Britton for his work on the field with the Panthers and in upgrading the school's baseball facilities and youth programs.

"I think in the three years Tom was here he surely did his best to continue building the program from where Steve Antich left off and it's in a good spot for the future," said Murphy. "As far as being a true baseball guy and a professional and teaching kids how to play, he did a great job with all of that."

"He's just a real quality guy," added Murphy. "Very professional and surely our kids always conducted themselves appropriately and competed and fundamentally tried to play good baseball. He brought a wealth of experience and passion for the game."

Murphy said he expects to hold off trying to replace Britton until the fall, partially because South's summer programs are already in full swing and it isn't necessary to get someone in right away. Once the position opens to the application process, however, Murphy said he expects a lot of interest.

"What people seem to be telling me is that our young kids are pretty good," he said. "We surely competed the last couple years, but maybe we could crank it up a notch or two in the future."

Britton will continue to serve as an assistant coach to Ray Smith with the American Legion A South Medford Colts and doesn't expect to walk away entirely.

"I'm stepping down but not stepping out," said Britton. "I'm going to be willing to help in any way I can."

Britton said a particular treat in his time at South involved being able to coach his sons Mitchell and Maxwell, and he had nothing but positive things to say about the school's foundation of support.

"The South people were really wonderful people to work with, that's probably the part I'm going to miss the most," he said. "It's a good organization at South with the athletic programs. Everyone's really positive and upbeat; it's a good atmosphere for coaches to work in."

Britton spent the bulk of this week weighing his decision before ultimately informing Murphy on Thursday.

"I'm sad in some ways but happy in others," said Britton, who began coaching in 1976. "There's a point in your life that you have to make a decision and I did, and I'm happy with it."

"I hope people understand that I did come in and tried to bring the program back to where I thought it should be and could be," he added.

In the end, though, the intangibles of the position just became too much in this period of his life.

"People don't understand the time and energy and work you have to put in ... seven to 12 hours a day, year-round to get these programs to where they have to be to be competitive, especially in our league," he said. "It takes a tremendous amount of work commitment and organizational skills. There's a lot more involved than just putting the uniform on and going and coaching third base. That kind of energy and commitment can wear on you and I'm in my fourth decade of doing it."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com