I’m not coming to the defense of Kent Leiss here. Not in the way you might think anyway.
The Coeur d’Alene boys basketball coach who resigned under pressure with three games left in the regular season was essentially fired last week.
From my vantage point – and I’ve followed this closely – this was a situation that was fumbled from the beginning by the principal and athletic director. They caved to irate parents, conducting a closed-door meeting with them late in the regular season.
Then after meeting with them, the principal cornered Leiss and all but asked for his job. He didn’t so much tell him to resign, but he hinted in strong words that if he didn’t resign he wouldn’t be around long.
I’m all for protecting athletes. But in this situation where the allegations were about a coach who directed foul language toward the players, the administrators should have ridden it out until the season concluded.
He wasn’t physically abusing the players. He did nothing criminal.
If they felt letting the coach go would best serve the situation, they could have let him finish and just not renew his coaching contract.
Instead the whole thing turned into a circus. The coach, upon further review, rescinded his resignation. He wasn’t allowed to return to the bench but was put on paid administrative leave.
He wanted to clear his name. He was told an investigation would be conducted. He was told three weeks later an investigation never took place.
Then he was told he’d find out in May whether he’d return as coach or not.
And all of a sudden the principal and A.D. decided to do their end-of-season evaluation and, alas, Leiss was fired. This after the A.D. told me the evaluation was taken out of his hands.
Leiss believes he was denied due process. Hard not to disagree.
“It would have been nice if the parents or administration would have come to me and talked first about this stuff,” Leiss said. “That didn’t happen. They (administrators) said I wasn’t developing positive relationships with my players and parents. I thought I had positive relationships with my players. Parents are tricky.”
• For the record, there’s no place for high school coaches to direct foul language toward their athletes.
I know dozens of coaches who drop an occasional swear word. That’s not offensive in my book as long as it’s not directed specifically to kids.
I referee city men’s basketball and hear foul words frequently. My ears aren’t virgin and neither are most of the ears of our youth athletes. Heck, it’s my guess many of them hear worse language at home.
Save those comments about when you, Dad, played high school sports two or three decades ago. Yeah, you may have played for someone with an over-the-top temper and the bullying demeanor of Bobby Knight. That style wasn’t right then and it certainly isn’t acceptable now.
• Leiss’ situation will put coaches on notice. And probably for good reason.
Input from parents should always be welcomed by coaches. If a parent has a concern, he or she should contact the coach first and try to resolve it. If that doesn’t work, then the next step is contacting school officials.
To leapfrog over a coach, as was the case here, is not right. It sends the wrong message.
It tells me that parents, too often, have too much influence.
I guarantee you this: Allow a parent to be a head coach and it will be a short stint.
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