Much to her surprise and disappointment, Michelle Russell was let go Tuesday as Dundee-Crown's head girls basketball coach.
Russell was informed in a meeting with Athletic Director Dick Storm and principal Lynn McCarthy that she would not be retained as coach. Russell teaches at Westfield Community School in District 300.
"I'm disappointed in their decision," Russell said. "I don't know what more I could have done. I've given all I had. I love Dundee-Crown and I always will. I don't understand, but it's their decision."
A 1991 Dundee-Crown graduate, Russell is the program's all-time leading scorer and was inducted into the D-C Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 2002. She once scored 45 points in a game at D-C before going on to play at Valparaiso and Purdue-Calumet.
After eight years as an underclass coach for the Chargers, she took over the varsity program prior to the 2008-09 season when Joe Komaromy retired after 26 years at the helm.
Russell went 32-103 in her five seasons, including 4-24 this season. D-C suffered heavy graduation losses from the 15-11 team of 2011-12, but Russell was excited for the future.
"We had a down year this year but I have never been so excited for the future," said Russell, the daughter of longtime D-C multisport coach Tom Russell. "We've got some really nice players coming up from the middle schools and the lower levels. I've been watching those kids develop. That's why I don't understand this."
Russell's departure from the program came with plenty of emotion as well.
"I grew up there," she said of Dundee-Crown. "My dad coached there and I played there. It was my dream to coach there. I've been watching everyone come up from fifth graders to seniors. I'll always love Dundee-Crown. I don't know what else I could have done. I hope it works out for them but I'm disappointed and I'm upset."
Russell's firing means two D300 schools are in the market for new girls basketball coaches. Ed Haugens recently stepped down after three years at Hampshire. Joe Benoit just completed his first season at Jacobs. The three D300 girls basketball teams went a combined 18-64 this season.
Storm thanked Russell for her years with the program.
"We're going in a new direction," he said. "I appreciate (Russell's) efforts. She tried hard in her five years and she's been very loyal to our school."
McCarthy did not return a message left by the Daily Herald Tuesday afternoon.