Coaches and athletic directors in the New Orleans area are hoping Thursday’s surprising news — that Kenny Henderson’s days as executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association have come to an end — brings about positive change for sports in the state.

“I am looking forward to new leadership,” Rummel football coach Jay Roth said.

Others seemed to agree with that assesment.

Henderson had served as the executive director since October 2007.

The news was announced in a statement by the LHSAA on Thursday that said: “The LHSAA executive committee and Henderson, have mutually agreed that it is in the best interest of the association and Mr. Henderson to sever their relationship.”

“You never like to see anybody lose their job,” said Hahnville football coach Nick Saltaformaggio. “I know at this time being in charge of the LHSAA is a tough spot to have. He had to answer for the upheaval. But it’s like being a head coach. You probably get more credit than you should get when things go well, and you get more blame than you should get when it’s not well.”

The search for Henderson’s successor will begin immediately. Ouachita Parish High Principal Todd Guice, past president of the LHSAA, will lead the search committee.

Local coaches and administrators are hoping that Henderson’s successor can help unify the association.

Although no specific reasons were given in Thursday’s statement, coaches believe that the split playoff format (with select and non-select schools playing separately) played a major role in Henderson ultimately losing his job.

“Unfortunately the state couldn’t unify itself and I think this is the end result,” Saltaformaggio said. “I don’t know Mr. Henderson personally, but he was the head of our association so I respected him. You knew somebody was going to have to fall on the ax because the state couldn’t unify itself.”

DeLaSalle athletic director Tony Bonura respected Henderson’s work as well.

“One of the things I appreciated the most about Kenny he was always responsible and quick to answer any questions we had,” said Bonura. “He was easy to work with, so I wish him well. He handled the job in a very professional manner.”

But Bonura would like to see whoever takes Henderson’s place take more of an authoritative role.

“Moving forward, we need a commissioner that is more willing to advise the principals on what’s best for the association,” Bonura said. “Principals and athletic directors are looking for a leader who is not going to put it completely in the hands of the principals without any guidance. I’m hoping we find a leader who can see the whole picture and be able to articulate how certain things will have long term effects. I think that was missing in the previous leadership.”

No timetable has been set for how soon a new executive director will be named. But one thing seems to be certain.

“We want a leader who brings the association back together in some form,” Bonura said. “I think that’s what everyone wants.”