"...kids weren't guaranteed playing time and had to earn everything without having it handed to them."
I've heard the story a little differently. Some connected and less deserving kids got playing time. Better players saw it and bailed. Add to that a certain level of dysfunction with little or no respect given to the kids and as soon as better opportunities came about they left. Additionally I think the link to the youth programs and the recruiting the assistant coaches did went away once they were alienated and they bailed.
Add it all up and the wheels really came off fast. Other coaches might want to learn from the downfall of the local legend.
"Other coaches might want to learn from the downfall of the local legend."
The best high school related sentence ever posted on the DBoard.
Be a J.A. to the kids, lose your recruiting youth hockey coaches, play favorites over the deserving, run your mouth continuously, call kids out and treat them unfairly and I hope your coaching days are numbered.