Gene Allen, who led the Atlantic City boys' basketball team to three state titles, is out as the Vikings' head coach.
Atlantic City athletic director Chris Ford Jr. said on Wednesday that Allen was not reappointed by the Board of Education during a Tuesday session. Ford did not give a reason for the firing, but the coach said the board was pressured to make a change by the parent of a former player.
Allen, who admitted that he used foul language in a text message thread to his team after last season, said he was surprised by the news that he would no longer be the Vikings' coach.
"I didn't see it coming," Allen said. "If I did, I would have went up there [to the board meeting] to defend myself. But I didn't do anything wrong. I was never written up. I never had a reprimand. There was nothing in my file."
The Vikings went 25-5 last season, losing to eventual state champion Shawnee in the South Jersey Group 4 title game.
Allen said he criticized some of his players in a text message related to plans for a postseason banquet.
"We usually have a nice banquet," Allen said. "But this year, we didn't have our gym [due to water damage], and the [middle] school we were using, we let them have the concession stand because they let us play there. So we didn't have the money we normally have at the end of the year. The kids were like, 'We want to have a big banquet.'
"I did curse on the thread. I did do that. But I told them, 'We don't deserve to have anything elaborate. We didn't win anything.' I told them, 'That's what's wrong with you kids. You have this sense of entitlement.' "
That no-nonsense, demanding approach was the key to Allen's success as a coach. He changed the Atlantic City program, which for most of its history had a reputation for producing great individual players but falling short in the postseason tournament.
Under Allen, the Vikings became known for their stingy man-to-man defense and ability to win close games in state-tournament competition.
Before Allen took over in 2003, Atlantic City never won a state title. Allen led the Vikings to Group 4 state titles in 2005, 2012, and 2013, and six South Jersey championships. His career record is 336-101.
"I'm OK," Allen said. "I really am. I feel bad for the kids. But I always told them that nobody is bigger than the program, that nobody was not expendable, and that includes me. I don't know how much longer I was going to go anyway. But you want to go out on your own terms."
Allen said he has heard from supporters who want to protest the decision and start a movement to reinstate him as coach.
"That's not me," Allen said. "I don't want that. I really don't want to go back after this."
Allen confirmed that his former assistant coach, Elijah Langford, a former Vikings' player, has been installed as the team's new head coach. Allen, who remains a teacher at Atlantic City, said he plans to use his free time to focus on his family.