Forest basketball coach Spencer Ashley resigns

Forest coach Spencer Ashley holds his daughter, Savannah, before a game in this February file photo. Ashley announced he would resign as the Forest coach to spend more time with his family. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
Forest High School’s boys’ basketball coach Spencer Ashley, who took the Wildcats to this year’s Florida high school final four championships, resigned on Friday so he could spend more time with his family, he said.

“I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time,” Ashley said.

Ashley led the Wildcats to a final four appearance in Lakeland, a feat not done in nearly 50 years.

The Bartow Yellow Jackets, who went on to win the Class 6A state title, ended the Wildcats’ season on March 4 behind a convincing 63-24 win in the state semifinal.

“I knew what it took to get to Lakeland, and I know what it’s going to take, as a coach, to get over that hump and get that ring,” Ashley said. “And I knew I didn’t have it in me… I just want to be at home with my girls and my newborn in July.”

Ashley is the father of a two-year-old daughter, Savannah, and his wife is expecting a son, Nathaniel Roy.

He felt he would have to focus too much time during the summer to keep the team sharp, leaving little for his family.

With much of the team returning, Forest is expected to have a strong season. Only one of the 12 players graduates this year.

Some questioned why Ashley didn’t stay on for another championship run.

“I want whoever gets this job, I want them to be successful right away,” Ashley said. “I wanted them to be set up for success. Because I’m going to be their biggest fan.”

When Ashley took over the program in 2017, he inherited a squad with an 11-10 record. In his first season, he helped the Wildcats improve to 17-10.

Ashley leaves the program with a career record of 73-34.

His team was the first to hear about his decision during a Thursday meeting.

“Just getting the words out was difficult,” Ashley said. “Those kids are amazing, and they understood it.”

Ashley’s impact on the program extends beyond wins and losses.

He spearheaded the remodeling of the locker room and helped bring new uniforms to the program.

He gives the school’s administration the credit for allowing him to mold the program.

“There is no bad blood between me and Forest,” Ashley said. “I have nothing but love for the administration at Forest High School and the athletic director, Donnie Tucker.”

Tucker did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The school did send a written statement about the resignation.

“Forest High School has had to say goodbye to an exceptional coach. Coach Spencer Ashley has stepped down from his head basketball coaching position for personal reasons. Coach Ashley will certainly be missed at FHS,” according to the statement. “His players and his FHS athletic family have a lot of respect for him and will certainly miss him. Although we are sad that this day has come, we wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Ashley did not give a hint about his next step. He did say he would finish out the school year at Forest, where he teaches physical education and health. Beyond that, he did not elaborate.

“This is just me wanting to take a step back. My family sacrifices so much during the season. It’s just time for me to take a step back and be a dad,” he said.

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