Despite leading the Bishop Carroll Catholic High School girls basketball team to its first PIAA state playoff berth since 2009 this past season, Crystal Horton recently received news of her dismissal as the team's head coach.
Horton, 31, who had coached the team for the past two seasons, was stunned and saddened by the school's decision to go in a different direction.
"It was a complete shocker for me,'' Horton said. "We did what we were supposed to do, and we turned the program around. We got the kids to compete and play hard. That was our game plan.''
Horton said that the school's athletic administration felt that she could not adequately balance her coaching duties with her family life.
Horton and her husband, Timirr, are the parents of four young children ages 6,4, 3 and six months.
"[Bishop Carroll] felt that they had to go in a different direction,'' Horton said. "They felt that I wouldn't be able to committed enough to the basketball program when I had to take care of four kids.''
Carroll athletic director Joe Skura said that he could make no comment on personnel issues, other than to say that "the only thing I can say is that [Horton] in no longer our head coach, but we really appreciate all that she has done and we wish her the best as she moves on in her future endeavors.''
Horton missed no games this past season, and only one practice, due to illness, but she felt that one circumstance during the winter played a pivotal role in Carroll's decision to look elsewhere.
With her husband required to work, Horton brought her kids to a rescheduled game during the season when she felt that she had no other options. She coached the game with her infant daughter on her lap.
"I had to bring my children with me on a Saturday because it was a rescheduled game,'' Horton said. "I had to do what I had to do. But [Carroll] told me that they wanted somebody in there that was going to be more committed and offer more time to the program.''
Horton led this season's team to an 11-13 record and a fourth-place finish in the District 6-A playoffs. The Lady Huskies posted a first-round victory over United, lost the next two district games, and advanced to the state tournament, where they suffered a narrow two-point loss to Shade in the opening round.
Carroll started the season by winning eight of its first 11 games, and the team kept its collective heads above water after senior post Brooke Mento sustained a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] tear and medial collateral ligament [MCL] sprain during the team's game at Bishop Guilfoyle in mid-January.
"We played our best basketball at the beginning of the season,'' said Horton, noting that her team defeated both Class AA Central and Tyrone en route to winning the Central Tournament in December. "We were 8-3 when Brooke went down, and our girls played with the type of determination that they wanted to be better.''
After Mento's injury, Carroll - which finished 7-17 under Horton two years ago - treaded water until the district playoffs, closing the regular season at 10-10.
"They worked hard in every practice and every game, and we were playing better basketball toward the end of the season,'' Horton said.
Skura said that Carroll is taking applications for the position and hopes to fill the opening before summer leagues begin.
Horton is turning the page with fond wishes for the school that gave her the chance to be a head coach.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity that Bishop Carroll gave me to coach and to build my resume, and I'm thankful for the girls I had a chance to coach,'' she said. "I really hope that Bishop Carroll gets the best [new] coach for the job.''