GRANITE CITY — Raffi Karibian has spent a large chunk of the last four years trying to turn the Warriors girls basketball program back into a force in the Southwestern Conference.
Now Karibian will attempt to do the same with the Warriors' boys tennis program.
Citing the opportunity to focus solely on coaching tennis, Karibian has stepped down as coach of the Warriors' girls basketball program after four seasons.
A Granite City native, Karibian, 40, informed Granite City Athletic Director Daren Depew of his decision a few weeks after the Warriors completed their season.
Granite City finished 6-22 this past year.
"Why now? Timing for one thing. I think for the program, it's a good time for me to step away,'' Karibian said. "Secondly, it gives me the opportunity to focus all of my attention on coaching the boys' tennis program now.
"I have an excellent group of freshmen this season and there are a few more kids coming up that I feel can help us get our program back to where I want it to be.''
A 1991 Granite City High graduate, Karibian has been a member of the Warriors' boys tennis coaching staff since 1997 and has served as head coach for several years.
On the basketball court, the Warriors have had some success under Karibian.
During his first season in 2010-11, Karibian led Granite City to 20 wins and a tie for second place in the SWC behind Edwardsville.
The Warriors won 46 games during Karibian's first three seasons.
"We're very proud of that,'' Karibian said. "This season we didn't win as many games, but we played all juniors and continued to grow as basketball players as the season went on and showed tremendous improvement.
"That's one of the toughest parts of this decision for me -- leaving them. But I feel I'm leaving the program in good shape. This is a tremendous group of kids and we've got a good group of freshmen coming in. The future looks bright.''
Another tough part of Karibian's decision was informing his players
"When I told the kids a few of them became very emotional and that was very hard for me. This is a great bunch of kids,'' Karibian said. We took a step backwards in terms of wins and losses this year, but we were a very young team.
"I never had to question our effort, though. The girls played hard every night.''
While 52 wins and a tie for second in the SWC were two of the highlights for Karibian, there were others.
"The thing I'm most proud of is that all the kids who have played for me the last four years are attending college or will be attending college next year," he said. "They are all great kids and I'm very proud of all of them. It's very satisfying to be able to follow them in college either playing basketball or another sport and know they are doing well toward earning their college degrees."