Wanted: High school basketball coach. Playing and prior coaching experience preferred. Ill-fitting sweater or windbreaker not included. Ideal candidate will win every game while overseeing equal distribution of criticism and playing time. Nightly formal and informal evaluations. Year-round volunteer opportunities. Prorated pay roughly 14 cents per hour.

Interested? You have my respect, and you have a shot. With good coaches leaving the game like Titanic rats, your local district is bound to have at least one opening in March.

No, this isn’t a treatise condemning Leavitt Area High School’s dismissal of boys’ basketball coach Mike Remillard this week. Though prone to err on the side of coaches, I also know there are stories buzzing about the Hornets’ nest and that within one of them, maybe, just maybe, there lives a scintilla of truth that spreads the blame evenly.

School administrators aren’t going to write a tell-all book for us, either. They have their own well-paid jobs to think about.

I would take the same vow of silence in their sneakers.

They have said Remillard’s firing had nothing to do with an alleged locker room confrontation at Morse Tuesday night, and I’ll take that explanation at face value.

We might never know exactly what happened Tuesday, and certainly nobody will be able to document every interaction between coach and parent since the beginning of tryouts. I do believe the allegation that somebody’s dad confronted Remillard in the visitor’s (and winning) locker room at Morse. I also believe that one topic of discussion was the coach’s allocation of playing time.

It happens frequently, and it’s disturbing.

Call me crazy, but I still believe the locker room is a sacred place. I’m a First Amendment-thumping journalist, and I don’t feel that I have any business in anyone’s locker room. Parents don’t, either.

To spin a different Leavitt basketball parent’s astute observation the day after, what’s happening in Turner isn’t the disease. It’s a symptom. I have watched the inmates commit similar mutiny in Jay, Rumford, Lewiston, Auburn and countless haunts outside the tri-county area in recent years.

While I don’t remember many of those instances seeing a coach canned with three games remaining in the regular season, the end result regardless of the sport was the same. He was fired at season’s end, or he quit, or he enlisted a cadre of character witnesses like the Jimmy Chitwood character in “Hoosiers” to avoid the chopping block by the skin of his hangnails.

The source of discord is invariably short-sighted. Not winning enough games. Not playing a school board member’s kid. Not being politically correct.

Last time I checked, the typical high school basketball team carries 12 to 15 players, even while Dr. Naismith continues to haunt us from the grave with those troubling rules that limit us to five at a time. And it’s a funny thing about coaches: They actually want to win. No fooling. So if your child isn’t on the court, maybe it’s because he’s (gasp) not as good as the other kids.

So most of the kids are sitting. And many of the kids are soft, thanks to a home and school climate that never ceases to remind them of their rights. You have the right to equal treatment in everything. You have the right not to be yelled at. And heaven knows your coach doesn’t have the right to use a four-letter word now and then, or the right to question your courage in a colorful manner.

The win-or-else implication is another happy side effect of travel teams. They start at an age when the kids still ought to be home watching Noggin and eating their own boogers. They’re coached by parents who see Johnny light up an eight-foot hoop for 26 points and believe they’ve got another Kwame Brown on their hands. If the team is unbeaten in sixth grade, it’s assumed they’ll do the same as seniors.

Hey, life happens. Maybe the kids stop growing. Maybe they grow too much. Maybe a couple of them discover beer or girls. Maybe one wants to join the competition cheering team and is worried that pops will disown him, I don’t know. I do know that a coach’s clear head, not a parent’s rose-tinted spectacles, is qualified to assess and administer his team.

Few coaches are empowered to do that job any longer. But if you still want to coach, opportunities will be afoot once the winter season ends. Some schools will advertise for six months and have trouble filling the vacancy.

Hopefully I’m not the only high school sports enthusiast who finds that alarming.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His e-mail is [email protected]


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