When Dennis Hurla first took the job as head baseball coach at Bishop Ward High School, he saw a three-year window where he thought the team could win a state championship. He just didn’t know that window would extend for two decades.
Hurla announced his resignation as Bishop Ward’s coach this week after a 20-year run. He finished with a 352-135 overall record and his teams won 10 state titles, including six straight during 2003-08.
The decision to step down, Hurla said, was something he started thinking about this summer. Bishop Ward started out this year’s regular season 2-11, but it made a postseason run to the Kansas Class 4A, Division II championship game.
That ending was one that Hurla considers a career highlight, even if the team didn’t take home the first-place trophy.
“It may be easy to say ‘to heck with it’ when you’re going like that, but they didn’t,” Hurla said. “I’d say that ending really stands out in all my years.”
Hurla said he wants to slow down and spend more time with his family, including his two sons, and six brothers and sisters. Baseball has been a top priority in his life for decades, and Hurla said he wants to relax for once.
The talent that Bishop Ward leaves behind also was a factor in Hurla’s choice.
“I just thought this might be a good point to break off and step down and give someone else an opportunity,” he said. “I think there’s a chance to succeed with the returning cast of players. I’m not leaving it in dire straits.”
For now, Hurla has no immediate plans to help Bishop Ward with its coaching search, although he said he would if asked. He also said his next chapter will likely involve baseball, although he’s not necessarily only looking at coaching opportunities.
“It’s all to be determined,” he said. “I think I’ll probably be involved with baseball in some form because that’s what I enjoy doing, but it could be something else. Baseball will be the number one choice for sure. … I just want to take a little time off, and see if there’s something that would be available that I would enjoy doing and be good at, and something that wouldn’t have me going as fast as I have been. It’s time to slow down a little bit.”
Hurla’s run at Bishop Ward included a Kansas high school record 45-game winning streak during 2006-08. In the middle of that streak came an undefeated state champion, in 2007.
Under Hurla, Bishop Ward became a perennial competitor in baseball. In addition to its six-title streak during 2003-08, the team also won it all in 1998, 1999, 2010 and 2014. In Hurla’s 20 seasons, Bishop Ward made it to the state championship game 14 times.