When he first became a teacher in Tallmadge 12 years ago, Mike Bluey learned something about the small town that will likely stay on his mind for the rest of his life.

Once you experience what Tallmadge is all about, it’s very difficult to leave.

However, Bluey, with a heavy heart, recently made that incredibly gut-wrenching decision to retreat from his comfort zone.

As a result, he will not return as varsity head coach of the Tallmadge High School boys basketball team this winter.

Bluey recently accepted a position as the varsity head boys basketball coach at Hoover High School in North Canton. He replaces former NFL quarterback and Hoover graduate Todd Blackledge, who resigned after last season.

Bluey informed Tallmadge City Schools superintendent Jeff Ferguson and Tallmadge athletic director Don Seeker of his decision May 9.

“I told both of them that there was really no reason at all for me to leave,” Bluey said. “I’m in a phenomenal situation. I’ve worked with great kids, great families and a great community. I couldn’t be happier.”

Ferguson said he was “shocked” by Bluey’s decision.

“First and foremost, there are certainly people who worry about sports and they are important, but what is more important is the life lessons Mike taught young people,” Ferguson said. “We’ll miss him as an assistant principal. It’s going to be tough to replace both of those positions. He did a great job.”

Bluey spent the last five years as the Blue Devils head coach.

Tallmadge’s 2017-18 season ended with an 81-44 loss to eventual state champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in a Division II district semifinal game in Canton.

The Blue Devils finished 14-10 last winter and were 64-50 during Bluey’s tenure.

“I’m very excited for him,” Tallmadge athletic director Don Seeker said. “It’s a great career move and he did a great job for us here. He is basketball 365.”

Bluey also spent the last four years as an assistant principal at Tallmadge High School. He previously taught physical education at Tallmadge Middle School, Dunbar Primary School, Overdale Elementary School and Munroe Elementary School.

So why has Bluey decided to leave Tallmadge?

Bluey, who was approved by the Hoover Board of Education Wednesday, previously got to see what Federal League basketball was all about as an assistant coach with the boys team at Jackson High School in Massillon in the late 2000s.

And his latest opportunity to return to Stark County was simply too good to pass up.

“The stars aligned,” Bluey said. “It’s a new challenge. (Former Hoover head coach) Randy Montgomery had some really good teams. They’ve kind of fallen off the last couple of years.

“When I look at the community and district, I don’t see why it can’t be right up there with Jackson.”

Prior to joining Jackson, Bluey spent a year as an assistant boys basketball coach at Rootstown High School. Bluey left Jackson to join the coaching staff as an assistant for the University of Mount Union men’s basketball team.

Bluey, who plans to finish his duties at Tallmadge next month, said he will have an “administrative role” at Hoover and his position will be “multifaceted.”

“I’ll meet more people in education,” he said. “Professionally, it allows me to grow my resume. As a coach, my fire burns hot. I still like to compete.”

Seeker praised Bluey not only for his work with the high school team, but also his dedication and commitment to building a youth program.

“He did everything he said he would do,” Seeker said. “He got very involved with the youth program. He took it by the horns and it has doubled or even tripled since he has been here. He is leaving us in a good place.”

Bluey knows there are challenges ahead.

He is going to a much larger school that plays in a rugged conference. Hoover’s rivals include former state champions Jackson and Canton McKinley.

“Stark County people are so passionate about high school sports,” Bluey said. “It’s like a large fishbowl. All eyes are on you.

“Nobody puts more pressure on me to be successful than I do. I want to win every time I step on the floor. The competition and the pressure that goes along with that is part of the thrill of coaching.”

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.