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South Kitsap girls basketball coach resigns

"Only nine months removed from a third-place finish at state and two weeks into the 1999-2000 season, the South Kitsap High School girls basketball team was delivered a blow Wednesday night when their coach, Gary Wilson, announced he was resigning effective immediately.The announcement was made, not to the players, but to the players’ parents at a meeting held at New Hope Church in Port Orchard.A group of stunned parents sat in disbelief, anger, and confusion for more than three hours as Wilson and assistant coaches Betsy Romine and Jeff Costello stated they were stepping down.A press release issued by the school district stated the high school was not aware of a parent meeting held by Wilson Wednesday night or the resignations until SK principal Dave Colombini received a written statement from the coaches Thursday at 6:30 a.m.Cheryl Sampson, mother of senior player Angela Sampson, said she was shocked and stunned when she heard the announcement.“He gets up and starts reading a letter and at the end he said ‘for this reason I am resigning as the girls basketball coach,’ ” Sampson said. “All of our mouths just dropped.”Wilson said he found out complaints and false allegations were filed with the SK school district by upset parents whose daughters were cut from the varsity team this year.Dealing with upset parents is nothing new to Wilson, but he said he forewarned school officials there would be problems no matter who he cut.Sampson said she wishes Wilson good riddance.“Gary knew he was on the hot seat,” she said. “The players he cut could have been a good asset. Hannah’s dad (Mike Proctor) said it best. He said ‘It’s like he’s on a sinking ship and took the only life raft.’ ”Sampson and other players’ parents, such as Charlie and Elaine Benton, said Wilson should have quit before the season.Elaine was concerned about the money the team and parents raised for the team’s upcoming trip to Las Vegas in less than two weeks.Thursday was the last day they could get their money back on the hotel and change the name of the airline travelers.But everyone’s mind was put to ease when the school officials said the trip will go as planned.Wilson said he knew he would feel the heat before he even made the cuts because he knew the parents he would be dealing with.In anticipation of complaints Wilson said he met with the school’s athletic directors and told them to be prepared for complaints.“I met with the ADs and told them it was going to be tough. No matter what, people are going to be upset,” Wilson said. But Wilson said he knew he would be fired if the district office heard any complaints.“The district office...they don’t like complaints,” Wilson said. “So how do you get rid of complaints? You get rid of the person.Wilson said he can’t understand why they wanted to fire him.“I asked ‘What did I do?’ he said. “And they couldn’t give me an answer. Nothing had been proven. It’s their opinion.”Complaints of physical and mental cruelty had been filed to the district against Wilson three years ago, but Wilson said the district never resolved any issues.Wilson said school officials told him they were not going to renew his contract next year but he could re-apply for it.“That pretty much means you’re not coming back,” Wilson said.An agreement had been reached between Wilson and school officials that he coach out the year. Wilson agreed, as long as the information did not leak out.According to the press release, Wilson had been previously advised that he would not be returning to coach the Wolves next season, but the coaching staff would continue for the current season and the district would support them in that role.Colombini and Athletic Director Steve Reischman said they were both surprised and disappointed by the sudden resignation of the coaching staff with the season already underway.A meeting with the basketball players was held Thursday to discuss the changes. The girls varsity team expresssed disappointment but also strongly demonstrated their resilience, enthusiasm and determination as a team.The three captains, Sampson, Beth Ellis, and Kristin Boyd would only give a brief statement to the media.“We have the same goal as we had before and that is to make it back to state,” Sampson said.Ellis said the coaching staff will be missed, and Boyd said “the coaching staff that is coming along, we will welcome them with open arms.”Though Wilson said he was upset he would not be coming back to coach next year, he said he was prepared to coach out the season.But the leaks by school officials frustrated him to the point he couldn’t continue as coach.“They could have been careful,” Wilson said. “Why now or why not wait until after the season? I was saying ‘If nobody knows this then maybe I could do this.’ “I didn’t tell anyone but my wife and the coaching staff,” he continued. “A week later the district office was approached by a sportswriter saying I’ve been fired.”Wilson said the agreement with the school was to say nothing, but that school officials told him “ ‘We could say what we wanted but we support you.’ “I was like ‘yeah, right, you just stabbed me in the back’,” Wilson said.As for pushing this as a legal issue, Wilson said he hopes it doesn’t come to that.“I’m investigating all my possibilities right now,” he said. “My wife summed it up best. She said. ‘I feel like I have cancer and it has just been cured.’ What a relief.”Wilson even admitted he knows he and the coaching staff will not be looked at positively.“We know we’ll get blasted in the paper,” he said. “What I’m going to say is honestly what happened.”Though he has not talked to his players, Wilson said he wishes the girls nothing but success.“I just hope the best for the kids,” he said."

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