Ernst takes chance to go home

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Eli Ernst stepped down as the Purdy girls basketball coach and will take the head job at his alma mater Mountain View-Liberty High School. Jared Lankford/sports@cassville-democrat.com

Decision tough, but it felt right

It was one of the toughest meetings Eli Ernst ever endured.

The Purdy girls coach summoned his players to his room near the end of the school year and blindsided them with the news that he would not be their coach for the 2017-2018 season.

“They thought they were coming in to get their summer workout schedule,” Ernst said. “It was heartbreaking for me to look them in the eye and tell them I was moving on from the program.”

Ernst said the decision to leave Purdy and return to his alma mater, Mountain View-Liberty High School, was the most difficult choice he has made as a professional, but made the most sense for him and his family.

“I’d prayed about it,” Ernst said. “Then, in church one day, the speaker was explaining about how Jesus sent his disciples out to go and preach. I felt this was God’s way of telling me that I needed to go back home.”

What also pressed on Ernst was the fact that his father has had a myriad of health-related issues.

“He’s had 40 surgeries and eight on his brain,” Ernst said. “I feel like I’m

leaving Purdy in a good place, and now I’ll have some free time to be with my family.”

Ernst takes pride in the fact that he was privileged to teach top-shelf kids in his five seasons at Purdy.

“Our team earned All-State academic honors and had a 3.86 cumulative GPA,” Ernst said. “Those girls all had hearts of gold and did whatever I asked of them in practice and in the games.”

In five seasons, Ernst (95-39) led the Lady Eagles to three district runner-up finishes and won 20 or more games in three of his five seasons, never finishing below .500.

“I wish Purdy the best, and hope everything goes well for them,” Ernst said. ‘The other day, I walked into my old gym and saw my son make a basket on the same floor that I used to play high school ball. I knew then my choice was the right one.”

Ernst will coach the girls team and serve as the director of the Alternative School.

“I’ve spent the first few days just getting to know the students and players,” Ernst said. “I usually asked for their names and their parents’ names, and then I am able to make a connection. I have two players whose dads played with me in high school. It feels like home, but I will always miss Purdy.”

The Lady Eagles will be coached by Jason Webb next season.

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