Bothwell steps aside as Southwest Livingston basketball coach

Son’s approaching December wedding tipped scales on decision to end 9-years tenure

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
After nine seasons of very successfully guiding the Southwest Livingston High School basketball Lady Wildcats, as well as coaching the Wildcats to last year's Carroll-Livingston Activity Association regular-season and tournament crowns, Julie Bothwell informed school officials last month personal matters had led her to decide not to continue on in the school's girls' basketball head coaching posts. She'd previously stepped aside from the boys' coaching job, which will be filled by Kyle Larson, assistant coach the past two years. No decision has been made yet on who will pick up the girls' reins.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Southwest Livingston High School had a state-championship football team last fall and the Carroll-Livingston Activity Association’s boys’ basketball regular-season and conference tournament champion last winter.

Both programs will be under new leadership in their next seasons.

With football coach Oren Magruder having matriculated back toward his home in taking the head coaching post at Salisbury, the Ludlow-based school’s head coach for both girls’ and boys’ basketball last school year, Julie Bothwell, recently informed the school administration she would not continue in those posts.

“I made a late decision to discontinue coaching when my oldest son, Brandon, proposed to his girlfriend (recently) and they set a date of Dec. 18 for the wedding,” Bothwell shared with the C-T Sunday. “I decided I didn’t want to miss out on preparations for the wedding.”

Head coach of SLHS’ basketball Lady Wildcats since the 2012-13 season, she noted that was only the tipping point on a decision she’d been contemplating.

“In all fairness, I had been toying with not coaching at Southwest for awhile and that just tipped the scales for me,” Bothwell, who is not a member of the district’s teaching faculty, stated.

Prior to her son’s disclosure of his wedding plans, Bothwell already had relinquished the boys’ basketball coaching reins she had taken prior to last school year to Kyle Larson, who’d been an assistant for her last season and for Dana Hansen the season before.

The girls’ post remains officially open, however, Southwest R-1 Superintendent Burnie Schneiderheinze confirmed to the C-T Monday morning.

Among the prospective candidates, the C-T has learned from various sources, is Chillicothe High School alumnus and former Hornets basketball star Nate McKiddy. A son of veteran CHS girls’ assistant coach Terry McKiddy, he was signed to the Southwest teaching faculty for 2021-22 last spring.

Bothwell’s nine years as head coach of Southwest’s Lady Wildcats, coming on the heels of a couple of years as assistant to Brian Upton, produced an overall won-lost record of 138-84, including an 11-9 mark last season.

In three of the nine seasons, the SLHS girls claimed district championships and, in 2014-15, they finished fourth in the Class 1 state tournament.

Taking over a strong, senior-dominated boys’ team last winter – albeit one without graduated All-State center Mack Anderson, Bothwell steered the Wildcats to an undefeated conference championship and the CLAA Tournament title before losing to Orrick in the district finals.

Her record in her only season as coach of the boys’ team was an impressive 16-5.

“One of my biggest highlights was probably beating North Andrew in (state) quarterfinal play to go to the 2014-15 ‘Final Four,’ starting two freshmen and three seniors and two unsung players – cousins Rylee Rounkles and Whitney Rounkles – step up and having game-changing moments in that game,” the retiring coach reflected.

“…But I have to say, I probably had as much fun the last three years with girls that only had one winning season over those three years. The girls that came and went these last three years made my final years coaching a lot of fun.”

She also enjoyed the opportunity to try coaching the boys’ game.

“I had a great time, but was glad I had raised two boys and had some idea of how boys behave!” she stated. “And what a great group of boys I got to coach this past year.

“I was disappointed we couldn’t bring home that district title because I was so invested in this team.”

Having begun her coaching career with the Southwest’s elementary grade teams (fifth-sixth grade) with Upton, then joining him on the varsity bench as girls’ assistant before then adding on responsibility for both the girls’ and boys’ junior-high teams, Bothwell seamlessly succeeded Upton when he accepted the girls’ head coaching position at Trenton after building the SLHS girls into a budding power.

“I will always appreciate Brian and the years that I was his assistant,” she relates. “He made me realize that coaching was something I truly had a passion for and it is always fun to be around successful teams.”

She also expressed her appreciation to the school district’s administration for trusting her with her various coaching jobs, even though she was not on the teaching staff.

“I appreciate Southwest’s administration and school board for providing a non-faculty Coach the opportunity to work with the Wildcat student-athletes.”

In addition to her hardwoods assignments, Bothwell also spent time as girls’ track head coach at both the high school and junior-high levels and oversaw the girls’ golf “program” (usually only a player or two) in recent years.

“Once, I was even an assistant football coach in order to help with conditioning,” she noted.

“I have loved every minute of my time at Southwest,” she continued, turning her focus to the bigger picture beyond wins and losses. “They put education first, but also recognize the life lessons that extra curricular activities like sports teach the students and the opportunities that they can provide.

“I have had some of the best kids come through my program and I make an effort to make contact with all of them every now and then to see how they are doing. …My players weren’t just student-athletes; they were family. … No matter how tough or hard they thought I was no them as a coach, that will always be how I feel about them.”

As for accomplishments “on the court,” she said that, while wins were always gratifying, she considered them always a byproduct of something more basic. 

“I am most proud of how my players bought in to my belief that you play the game based on fundamentals and toughness and from buzzer to buzzer for 32 minutes over all 84’ (of court),” Bothwell stressed.

“I never had a team ‘quit’ on me, no matter how far down or up they were. One of my senior girls this year was told by a competing player, ‘You can quit playing defense so hard. Have you not seen the scoreboard?’ We were down (by) 30. My player just got into her defensive stance and said, “Well, I am going to keep playing hard. That’s what we do.’

“…I have been complimented on my ‘great’ (biggest-winning) teams and on my teams that were not as ‘great,’ simply for the way my players get after it and never quit until the final buzzer. In my book, as a coach, you couldn’t ever give me or my players a greater compliment.”

While personal circumstances have helped close a chapter of her coaching “story,” Bothwell doesn’t consider the book permanently closed.

“I will miss coaching, but who know what the future hold? I may just love to go back and coach some elementary teams in a year or two.”