Hantsport residents gather hours before the playoff game behind a volunteer coach who has been fired
The Hantsport School Junior High Boys basketball team was about to play their first playoff game of the season last week. But two hours before the game, school officials fired Brandon MacInnis, the team’s volunteer head coach.
“They told me it was in the best interests of the kids that I was no longer needed as their head coach and that I would give up my keys,” MacInnis said.
One of his longstanding coaching philosophies is that his players show up for training on time, he said. Some of his players were fooling around in the dressing room when training was due to start last week.
“I hold the team accountable for their actions and because they were a little late we did some line drills,” MacInnis said.
The drills are common and see players line up at the baseline of the gym and walk up and down the gym floor.
None of the players complained and the rest of the training session went smoothly, he said. The players left the field pumped for their first playoff game scheduled for the next day.
But MacInnis said Headmaster Jan Routledge and Deputy Headmaster Ian Morrison told him they disagreed with his disciplinary action.
They declined an interview request from CBC News. A spokesman for the Annapolis Valley Center for Education said the school will be looking for a new volunteer coach for next year.
“Proud of the boys”
The team’s players were shocked to learn before the playoff game that their coach had been fired. They made the decision to get behind their coach and didn’t play the game, resulting in them losing by defeat.
“I’m very proud of the guys who said they wouldn’t play if I wasn’t their coach,” said MacInnis, who won a provincial basketball title as a player at Horton District High School in New York in 2007 and played college basketball for two years at Crandall University in Moncton.
“The whole thing could and should have been handled differently by the school.”
News of the coach’s sacking quickly spread through the small community. The Hantsport players’ parents are upset and realize they were not informed by the school of what had happened.
“My first reaction was shock, followed by heartbreak,” said Lizz Cochrane. “I know what the boys think of Brandon and how excited they were to play that playoff game. There were a lot of tears and a lot of angry boys.”
“Brandon has always been positive with the kids and a great coach,” said Kristy Webster. “It was quite shocking and there was definitely some fear because there was no communication.”
MacInnis showed up at the gym a few days ago to watch the Hantsport girls team play a playoff game. As he entered the gym, members of the boys’ team who were at the game came up to him and hugged him, and the crowd watching the game gave him a standing ovation.
Girls’ team members wore white patches on their uniforms with the letter B to honor Brandon.
“It was very special and a pretty powerful moment,” said Cochrane. “I’m sure it was a very special feeling for Brandon to see the community support because he really is an amazing person.”
MacInnis said he will never forget the feeling he had when he walked into the gym and got that reaction from the players and fans.
“It’s been really overwhelming and the community support from our players, players from other teams, other coaches, it’s just amazing and inspiring,” said MacInnis.
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