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South Jeff coach Bassett’s fate to be determined today


ADAMS CENTER — South Jefferson girls basketball coach Pat Bassett’s fate is expected to be revealed today after he attends a closed-door meeting with school officials.

A nearly four-hour Board of Education meeting Monday night at Wilson Elementary School, packed with supporters of the two-time state champion coach, ended without an official resolution. Board members released a statement, however, indicating that Mr. Bassett could be back to coaching as soon as today.

Mr. Bassett, in his 14th year at the helm, was put on administrative leave last Tuesday for reasons that have yet to be disclosed. He has continued his job as a physics teacher at the high school.

“The board is not recommending any personnel action be taken right now,” the statement read. “The board is recommending that Coach Bassett’s administrative leave will be discontinued pending a satisfactory resolution of our concerns. This means that he could be coaching as soon as (tonight). We’re going to be having a meeting with him — the president, vice president, superintendent and others (today). So, it’s to be continued.”

A group of about 200 that included players, former players, parents and supporters of the program attended Monday’s meeting. During a public comment session that lasted about 90 minutes, 29 people stood up and spoke, and each one defended Mr. Bassett, several describing the tough but popular coach as “like a father.” Some parents read letters from former players who couldn’t attend.

One former player, 2002 graduate Kim Beevers, said she returned home from Uganda on Sunday night just to attend the meeting.

Mr. Bassett, who was not at the meeting, wrote in an email to the Times after the meeting: “I’m incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from Spartan Nation parents and fans, but most of all from my current and former players, those who were able to attend tonight and so many more who wrote powerful, heartfelt letters reflecting on their experiences in our program. The past couple of days have reaffirmed for me why we coach. Ultimately it’s not about the wins and losses, but more about the lifelong relationships that we build with our players.”

The allegations that led to Mr. Bassett’s leave were not discussed by the board.

“That’s something that I can’t elaborate on right now,” district Superintendent Jamie A. Moesel said after the meeting.

The board confirmed to a group of parents last Thursday that the accusations did not involve physical or sexual abuse.

Jessica Blair, a former player and assistant coach of Mr. Bassett’s, said during the public comment session that she was told the accusations involved Mr. Bassett’s ignoring player injuries, excessively using blocking pads to simulate game contact during practice and throwing a ball that hit a player in the head.

Ms. Blair, now an assistant coach at Watertown High School, defended Mr. Bassett.

“I experienced first-hand how hard Coach Bassett uses the blockers, and can honestly say I never found it more excessive than the contact I’ve received in a game,” she said. “To my knowledge, no one ever got injured during Coach Bassett’s practice getting hit by the blocker, but multiple players have been injured by receiving contact in a game.”

Mr. Bassett has long been known for his intense coaching style, as was acknowledged by a majority of those who spoke.

Former players used words such as “intense,” “tough,” “hard” and “demanding” to describe the legendary coach. But they also expressed gratitude for that style and credited Mr. Bassett for preparing them for life after high school. Several said he was “like a father.”

Former players shared several personal stories, some fighting through tears.

One player told about how Mr. Bassett was the only person who got through to her and helped her get over an eating disorder. Another said that he was her best supporter during her parents’ divorce, and yet another said that Mr. Bassett was the only person she would talk to about one of her parents being diagnosed with cancer.

“Some of those letters really needed to be heard,” said Austin Stevens, a South Jefferson senior and current player who previously said she and other players would not return to the team without Mr. Bassett.

“And I think that was the most important part of this meeting. Other than just the support, those letters spoke volumes.”

The board previously said a decision would be reached Monday night, but everyone left about 10 p.m. without a definitive answer.

“I don’t think it was changed,” Ms. Moesel said. “I think we came to a decision that there wouldn’t be any personnel action and that the administrative leave basically will be discontinued, again, pending a final satisfactory discussion.”

South Jefferson has had two games postponed during Mr. Bassett’s leave, though one would have been canceled because of a snow day.

South Jefferson’s next scheduled game is Thursday.

Mr. Bassett has accumulated more than 300 victories, two state championships, five state final four appearances, 12 straight Frontier League titles and eight Section 3 banners in his 13 years at the helm.

The Spartans haven’t lost to a league opponent since 2008.

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