JEFFERSONVILLE — Joe Luce has resigned his post as boys' basketball coach at Jeffersonville High School following four seasons on the sideline at Johnson Arena, according to a statement released to local media that cites a desire to be closer to his and his wife's family.
The Big X, WXVW-FM 96.1, was the first to report Luce's statement via Twitter. Luce has a 68-33 record in four years at Jeffersonville and has a 338-145 mark in 21 years of coaching in Indiana.
"I am resigning my position as principal of the engineering and manufacturing academy and boys' basketball coach at Jeffersonville High effective September 3," Luce wrote. "I am proud of the accomplishments I've been associated with both during the school day and on the court. I look forward to following my players throughout the upcoming school year and after. The opportunity to be closer to my family and my wife's family is something I am very excited about."
Jeffersonville athletic director Todd Satterly said the timing comes as a surprise with official preseason workouts set to begin next week.
"It was a surprise," Satterly told the News and Tribune. "I don't know specific details but greatly appreciate the job coach Luce has done to bring us back to a state power. I wish him and his family the best in whatever that holds for them."
The timing of Luce's departure is untimely. The Red Devils, coming off a Class 4A Seymour Sectional crown that was Luce's sixth, are considered one of the top contenders for a state championship in the 2019-20 season. Luce didn't return requests to elaborate on his resignation.
Long-time Jeffersonville assistant coach Clark Miles said he enjoyed working with Luce.
"I've been very fortunate to coach with a lot of coaches. We had some success," Miles said. "We had things going in a positive direction. We've got things turned around and have a good group of kids that should be able to represent Jeffersonville well. It's just one of those deals. We just have to move on. A decision had to be made and we have to go forward from there."
Popular Indiana high school basketball website hickoryhusker.com has Jeffersonville ranked as its preseason No. 1 team. Three different Red Devils — senior forward Tre Coleman, senior point guard Jacob Jones and sophomore guard Will Lovings-Watts — have received Division I scholarship offers. And guard Darin Starks, a 50-percent 3-point shooter last season, is being pursued by IU Southeast. The rest of the talented Jeff core such as Devean Franklin, Jaylen Fairman also played big minutes during last year's 19-6 season that included a share of the Hoosier Hills Conference title.
Newly-hired assistant coach Chris Moore will take over the day-to-day operations of the program as the search for the new head coach begins, according to a news release issued by Greater Clark School Corporation.
Moore, a Louisville native, has had a long career as college basketball assistant coach, mostly at the mid-major level. Moore will be on staff in some capacity this season.
"Chris has coaching experience with Southeast Missouri State, Wright State University, Morehead State University and more," Satterly said. "The Jeffersonville High School program consists of many talented student-athletes that have excelled the past several years. I am completely confident that our players and the program will continue to be successful.”
The sectional crown last March capped a fourth straight winning season for Jeffersonville following 8-14 and 12-11 seasons under Matt Pait.
Luce arrived in Jeff following great success at Richmond, winning a 2014 sectional title and sectional and regional crowns in 2015 to cap a 46-7 two-year run. Luce took the job offer at Jeffersonville when his position as dean was cut, according to reports in the Palladium-Item in Richmond.
Prior to Richmond, Luce led Marion to a 2008 state runner-up finish following a game when Brownsburg's Gordon Hayward hit a last-second shot after the Giants took the lead on the previous possession.
One incident of misconduct was made public during his time at Jeff. In February 2017, Luce was suspended for a sectional game. According to a News and Tribune report, the incident that led to the suspension was apparently in his role as Jeffersonville High School's Dean of Students, not as the basketball coach.
Sherron Wilkerson, who was a member of Jeffersonville's 1993 state championship team, took over head coaching duties for that game. Wilkerson, who led Jeff to the 1993 state championship before going on to play for Bob Knight at IU, accepted a head coaching job at Madison this spring.