Veteran high school basketball coach Rich Goulet admits he always had a tough love approach to coaching, but says he never would have expected it to lead to the investigation that ended his career over the summer.
Goulet resigned as a result of what is being called a bungled investigation by Pitt Meadows Secondary into complaints about his coaching style, including “negativity” and yelling at players.
Since 1979, Goulet had coached the Pitt Meadow Marauders senior and junior boys basketball teams, leading them to more than 1,000 wins and a trio of B.C. provincial championships.
He was awarded the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award for Community Leadership and inducted into the B.C. Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
But, according to Goulet, he was forced to resign in July for the second time in 2017 after the school’s principal and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district administrators acted on complaints from one or more players’ parents.
Goulet, 70, said the past two years — which included his diagnosis with kidney disease and a stroke — have been the most challenging for the Marauders, with more uncommitted players and attitude problems than ever.
Goulet said he retired from teaching at the school in the spring. In April, he said, Pitt Meadows Secondary principal Mike Keenan told him parents had complained.
He said he was then asked how much longer he hoped to coach — another year or two — and it was implied that he should instead resign. So he did.
But after a public meeting where players’ parents voiced their disappointment about the resignation, Goulet was asked to return, he said. Meanwhile, the school district had launched an investigation into his conduct.
Goulet went on to coach about 150 spring games. Then when the investigation concluded in July, he was told to tender his resignation again, he said.
He went to the final game of the season, wished his players good luck, and that was the end of his 39-year career.
Goulet has been left bitter by the complaint process, which he believes was a cowardly move by the complaining parents. In previous seasons, parents have always spoken with him directly to resolve issues, he said.
“Not one has come forward, even after that meeting with the public where people were upset with parents who did things behind peoples’ backs,” he said.
“This is a sign of the times. Somebody’s upset, we’ve got to take care of that one upset person before anything else.”
Asked whether his coaching style could be viewed as bullying, Goulet said he’s always been loud, “in your face,” and rougher on his players than other coaches.
“I’ve had a certain style,” he said. “You can’t come and play for me and not know this.”
In an emailed statement, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District confirmed Goulet’s July resignation but did not answer emailed questions asking for details about the decision, citing privacy laws.
“As a school district, we have an obligation to take seriously and thoroughly review any concerns that are presented to us,” the statement said. “This obligation pertains equally to new and longtime employees/volunteers.”
Paul Eberhardt, president of the B.C. High School Boys’ Basketball Association, slammed the administrators’ treatment of Goulet.
“They just kind of bungled it from the very beginning,” he said.
Eberhardt said he met with Pitt Meadow Secondary administrators to discuss a solution, to no avail. He warned them of the backlash they could face, particularly after he heard from coaches who said they will no longer play their teams in Pitt Meadows, he said.
Eberhardt said he finds that parents are now more often inserting themselves into or interfering with their child’s sports.
“It’s kind of unfortunate,” Eberhardt said. “One of the things I think student athletes learn from their sport experiences is to be accountable for making mistakes — and responsible. I think nowadays a lot of parents are taking it out of their hands.”
A trio of NBA stars took to Twitter to express their disappointment at Goulet’s resignation, including former L.A. Lakers centre Robert Sacré.
“There is a problem when one of B.C’s best high school coaches gets fired for being a coach. Nothing but love for the Great Goulet,” Sacre said.
Victoria native and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash retweeted Sacre’s message, adding, “Lucky I got to play for coach Goulet!”
“Learned a ton from coach Goulet, wouldn’t trade the opportunity to have played for him ever, helped me immensely on my path to where I am,” wrote Miami Heat centre Kelly Olynyk.
Author: Nick Eagland