Prep Sports

Shields leaves QND before coaching one game, takes job at New Mexico high school

Tom Shields addresses the media and supporters after being named QND's basketball coach on April 17 at the Pit. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
Posted: Aug. 2, 2015 3:32 pm Updated: Aug. 16, 2015 3:32 pm

Sports Editor | 217-221-3366 | @SchuckWHIG

QUINCY — Tom Shields walked out the front doors of Quincy Notre Dame High School, climbed into the driver’s seat of his Toyota and drove away Sunday afternoon for the final time after unexpectedly ending an abbreviated coaching stint.

Two days after being named the head boys basketball coach at Alamogordo High School in Alamogordo, N.M., the 67-year-old Shields resigned from the same position at QND a little more than three months after taking the job.

"I can confirm that," Shields said before driving away.

He declined to give a reason for his sudden departure other than to say he was taking a job in New Mexico, nor did he give the QND administrators any other explanation. Shields said he enjoyed coaching the Raiders throughout the summer and this decision was "heartbreaking."

He declined to answer any further questions.

Jerrett Perry, the director of athletics for Alamogordo Public Schools in Alamogordo, N.M., announced Shields’ hiring Friday and the Alamogordo Daily News reported it online Friday night. QND officials did not learn of the hiring until Sunday afternoon.

Two hours later, they met with Shields at the school. He walked out for good 30 minutes after that.

"If you said give me one word to describe my feelings right now, it’d be disappointing," QND athletic director Bill Connell said. "It’s disappointing that I would hire a man and shake his hands and him not follow through with the commitment that he started. Disappointing."

An Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, the 67-year-old Shields was hired by QND to replace Bob Sheffield, who resigned in February during his second season at the helm. Shields brought with him an impressive resume that included leading Providence St. Mel to the Class A state championship in 1985 and Hales Fransciscan to the Class A state title game in 1993.

In a career spanning 36 years, Shields has amassed a record of 595-232 while guiding four teams to the Illinois state tournament.

Introduced at a press conference in April, Shields said he was committed to coaching at QND.

"I feel like I’ve been wandering in the desert for six years," Shields said at the time. "When I saw this opening, it just exploded in my mind that I really want this. And this is it. I’ll go as long as the Good Lord is willing. Six, eight, 10 years, whatever I can do."

Reminded Sunday that he made those comments, Shields looked at the ground and declined to comment.

"We want people who want to work here," Connell said. "We want people who want to be Quincy Notre Dame. We want people who want to work with our young people. That being said, since he accepted another job, he doesn’t want to do the things that I just listed.

"So what we’re going to do is move on."

Connell said the school administration had not had a chance to determine the process for hiring a new coach nor had it set a timetable.

"I can tell you that it’s not going to be a quick, two-second decision," Connell said.

QND had a pool of 19 applicants when it opened the position in March and whittled the list to six finalists before selecting Shields.

However, Shields is known for being a coaching nomad.

Shields was going to make QND his sixth coaching stop in the last seven years and the seventh Illinois school he had coached. His first head coaching opportunity came in 1979 at St. Mel, where he went 162-24 in six seasons.

After leaving St. Mel, He coached two seasons at Elmwood Park, one at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., one at Poplar Grove North Boone and one at Pekin before getting hired to rebuild the program at Hales Franciscan in 1990.

Shields left Hales three years later to coach at Urbana, although he backed out of the job and never coached the Tigers. He jumped back into coaching the following season at Pontiac, where he coached for eight seasons and led the Indians to a regional title in 1999. It was their first regional title since 1982.

In the last six years, Shields has coached at four different schools, been the athletic director at another and spent last winter coaching girls basketball at Garden City, Kan.

"We will rebound and we will be fine," Connell said. "It’s just going to take a couple of days here to figure out the process and the timetable."