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'Surprised' at his dismissal, Arena Football League veteran says he's 'proud of what I did in Portland'



TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - MIKE HOHENSEEThe Portland Thunder are in the market for a new head coach.

The Thunder announced Monday night that Mike Hohensee, who guided them to the playoffs, will not be back in 2016 for a second season with the Arena Football League team.

Hohensee and the Thunder finished 5-13 in the 2015 regular season, the same mark the franchise had in its first year under former coach Matthew Sauk.

The team said Hohensee had a one-year contract and the decision to part ways was mutual.

Hohensee said he was “surprised” to be let go.

“I thought we were playing our best football at the end of the season,” he said. “We got the most out of the guys we had.”

Hohensee said the team made its decision to look for a new coach after talks between himself, owner Terry Emmert and Emmert’s son, Terry Michael, over the past few days.

“We discussed it, and it’s just not going to happen,” Hohensee said, of his return to the helm, adding that the owner "is a good man and treated me well."

“I’m going to miss everything about Portland,” he said. “We put our hearts and souls into this, and unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

“Some people just look at the record and ignore the circumstances, and that’s OK.”

The Thunder suffered a batch of key injuries in 2015, including a season-ending knee injury to QB Darron Thomas, and they had to shuffle the lineup, notably on defense, much of the year.

“Those are all great excuses, but I thought we handled those,” Hohensee said. “We really did the ‘next man up’ thing. We brought in guys and developed them. (Receivers) Jared Perry and V'Keon Lacey came on and played some excellent football. And Darron — last year he didn't even look like an arena quarterback and this year he began to look like a star.

"I can’t take all the credit for those things — my assistant coaches (who also won’t return) worked extremely hard and made sacrifices, being away from their families. In a way, I feel like I let them down.”

The Thunder now “have a foundation to take it to the next level,” Hohensee said. “I wish everybody luck. I really appreciate the great fans I had the opportunity to get to know and the sponsors we got a chance to meet and greet. It’s been a very positive experience.

“I really want to thank the players. We tried to teach them the game as best we could and to motivate them, and hopefully they learned about life and about being a man — I think that’s all part of it."

The Thunder lost in the first round of the playoffs to the San Jose SaberCats, who had the best record in the league and are playing this weekend for the league championship.

“If they keep the core of the team together, I think they’ll do well,” Hohensee said.

Hohensee said his immediate plan was to go back home to the Chicago area and watch his son, Michael, a sophomore quarterback at St. Charles (Ill.) High, in his team’s season opener on Friday night.

“And then I’ll see where my next adventure takes me,” he said.

Hohensee, 54, is a 29-year veteran of arena football, having played quarterback and thrown the first touchdown and having been a head coach since 1990. He won the ArenaBowl in 2006 with the Chicago Rush.

“I’m proud of what I did in Portland," he said, "and I’m hoping to get another opportunity down the road somewhere. I haven’t been approached by other teams or the league in any capacity, but I’ll answer my phone, and we’ll see what happens.”

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