Once again, we are struck by the similarities between high school athletics and what happens at the college level, thanks to recent events at Gilbert Christian High School and the University of Connecticut.
Unfortunately, in this case, it’s an example of the darker side of school sports. And it isn’t a pretty picture.
A hot topic on sports radio talk shows right now is the request by a major donor at UConn to have his $3 million contribution to the sports program returned, and his family’s name removed from the building that used his money for construction.
The reported reason for his sudden reversal in support of the school’s athletics is pretty straight forward: The school failed to ask him for his input before hiring its new football coach.
For some reason, Robert Burton decided his rather large contribution gave him a role in the school’s hiring process.
Now, go back a couple of weeks to reports that the highly successful boys basketball coach at Gilbert Christian HS was fired in mid-season.
The decision to dismiss Steve Currier, who started the program seven years ago and won two state championships at the 1A Christian school, has been linked to a major donor who has a son playing on the team – which leads the conference again this year.
Gilbert Christian isn’t doing anything that other Arizona high schools haven’t been doing lately, firing coaches who have worked hard to build solid programs and, too often, for no more reason than they “want to move in a new direction.”
They’re just taking the arrogance to a new level. They apparently let a group of parents fire their coach.
So what’s the message to the kids at the school? To quote Jerry McGuire: “Show me the money!”
Gilbert Christian officials aren’t talking about the situation. Its superintendent, Jim Desmarchais, has given the media a “no comment” statement when asked to give the school’s side of the story.
But Currier insists the school had never criticized his coaching style and he was never given a warning about “negative behavior”, which is reportedly at the center of the controversy. His assistant coaches have backed him up and a team meeting conducted by Desmarchais evidently turned up nothing to warrant a reprimand, much less dismissal.
He says he was asked to take a leave of absence, but didn’t want to leave his team as it apparently heads toward a shot at a second straight state title.
The school administration isn’t talking and Currier won’t name the donor who had threatened to have him fired after a confrontation earlier about his coaching, or the group of parents he enlisted in his cause.
Currier sits on the school board, along with five other men. According to the school website, all but one have children attending the school.
The board president is Mark Young, a bank executive; the secretary is Dan Roberts, who works at the drive-in auto service company he founded; and Brian Kingdeski, a real estate agent, is the treasurer. Kingdeski coaches the school’s junior high basketball team.
The other members are Tim Killeen, an insurance agent, and Scott Malm, an attorney.
According to an article in The Arizona Republic, three of the board members were present for an unexpected meeting with the coach Jan. 10, when he was notified of their decision to replace him. Desmarchais was also at the meeting, as well as the donor and his attorney.
Talk about intimidation!
Currier shouldn’t have any trouble finding another coaching job. His record speaks for itself.
But it would help if someone at Gilbert Christian would man up and provide the school’s side of the story. If there are proven examples of player abuse, those should come out.
Until that happens, Steve Currier is left with a cloud of doubt over his head as he searches for a new home court.