Noblesville School Board members knew Tuesday evening’s decision to move forward with a new head varsity boys basketball coach would be an emotional one, but once the change was made a chorus of boos came from the crowd gathered in support of former coach Dave McCollough.
The board heard from a dozen community members, parents and former and current players who passionately pleaded for McCollough before a unanimous decision was made to hire Brian McCauley.
“Personally, I feel it’s disgusting,” Jack Trittipo, senior basketball player, said afterward. “There was glaring support community members and leaders. It’s just disappointing they don’t listen to the community.”
Trittipo credited McCollough for his tough work ethic when he spoke to the board prior to the vote.
“First of all I would like to state that not once have I ever felt that Coach Mac had anything less than his player’s wellbeing at heart. Yes, he pushed us to our limits at times and he always made sure to tell us when our effort was lacking,” he said. “Many times coach told us ‘I love you all before and after practice but on the court it’s time for business’ to remind us these tough workouts were not conjured out of spite or hatred. Instead coach had one goal in mind: teaching a group of young men how to work hard.”
Trittipo said McCollough has been a reliable source of comfort for his family while his mother, Dora, undergoes cancer treatment.
“I am thankful my son had the opportunity to play for such a wonderful, well respected and wining coach,” Dora said. “Coach Mac made a huge impact on his life. Coach took a young, immature boy and helped him become a man. My son is a thoughtful, respectful, hard working student and athlete and we owe a lot to Coach Mac for that.”
Like her son, Dora said she was discouraged by the board’s vote.
“We knew coming in it was probably a done deal,” she said. “We felt we needed to speak on behalf of Coach McCollough … We feel he is the coach for Noblesville. He should not have been released from his contract.”
Scott Radekur traveled to Noblesville from Lafayette. Radekur worked as an assistant coach under McCollough before working at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
“He was like a father to me. He was just an amazing person in my life. I would have drove across country to come to speak on his behalf tonight,” he said. “I coached with him for seven years, probably close to 700 practices, never once saw him come close to physically abusing a player. Never saw him come close to verbally abusing a player.”
Radekur said McCollough genuinely cared about every player and knew what buttons to push.
“Nothing that’s been done does him justice, nothing. I feel sorry for what’s happened here. Did he make a mistake, yea, he admitted it. He had a public apology and an apology to the team. He got suspended for five days from school like some kind of criminal. Couldn’t even step back in the school. And he served his punishment graciously and they let him come back in and coach and teach so obviously he’s not that much of a danger to kids,” he said. “Even if the school board doesn’t come to their senses and keep Coach Mac here, I know he is going to land someplace. And that someplace is going to benefit from everything Noblesville is going to lose.”
In April, McCollough was told that his contract as men’s basketball coach would not be renewed, but his teaching position remains at the high school. In January, McCollough was suspended after throwing a basketball that hit a player.
Several spoke about the incident saying that certain basketball players dramatized the incident.
Greg Salmon, video/basketball operator, was at practice and witnessed the incident in question. Salmon said he was one of the adults not spoken to.
“To me, it appeared they cherry picked athletes to talk to and were very slow with approaching the adults,” he told the board. “Here’s what happened that no one in the administration that did their thorough investigation thought was important to include: The day of the incident I was in the gym at half court by the bleachers directly across the court from Coach Mac and Pete Dewars watching practice. The reason I was in there was because I do the filming for Noblesville. I’ve done it for almost 20 years and still no one wanted to talk to me about it. During the drill right across from me just short of half court, Coach McCollough called a foul on one of the players. The player proceeded to throw the ball back at Coach Mac with a little extra oomph as if he was upset with the coach. Mac threw the ball back. From where I was standing it did not appear that the ball hit the player, but appeared to graze his hand when he raised it. I had a perfect view looking across the gym. I was right under the basket where I had a half court view standing right next to the manager. Coach Mac said something like, ‘What’s your problem?’ The player responded with, ‘You threw the ball at me.’ Coach Mac responded, ‘You’re right, I did throw the ball at you. You threw it at me.’ And play proceeded without any conversation. From my perspective at the time it seemed to be a non-event and practice went on as usual. I would recommend to each of you to take the time if you have not already to look at the video and judge for yourself what happened.”
In addition to providing a signed petition with early 500 names asking to reinstate McCollough, parents asked for a thorough review of the incident.
“Maybe some of you are the same way, but I am totally perplexed about why we are where we are at today. I don’t understand it,” said Jim Hartley, Noblesville resident and father of a former player. “It seems to me that in an event like this that there should be a very thorough investigation before you take a man that’s been in this profession for 20 years and affected many of the lives including my son, whom I wish was here, before you make such a deliberate move.
Hartley also questioned the use of group interviews instead of individual ones.
“I’m not all knowing or all seeing, but it seems to me there ought to be a lot more respect given to people in privacy to express what they think and what they saw,” he said. “We need the facts to come out on what really happened. I’m asking you to appoint somebody who is an individual that is free of thought, that doesn’t have the animosities and the personal feelings to investigate this thing and bring the facts to the table so we can make a better decision.”
Noblesville resident Matt Surface said he has grown increasing concerned about the direction of Noblesville Schools and the administration as he learns more about the situation.
“Initially I was shocked and saddened that Noblesville would let go of the winningest coach in NHS history,” he said. “How could this be called a thorough investigated when it’s far from it? How could professionals allow a few kids with enabling parents to dictate the course of our school’s coaches? I don’t blame the kids though. Kids always explore the boundaries. I blame the administration, the people, the person in charge of decisions who did very little in line with protocol, written policies and common decency. That’s what I have a problem with and you should too as a public and a board.”
Matt Cook said district’s policies and procedures were not followed when McCollough was fired.
“This is what we do now in Noblesville? This is how we do things on your watch? This is the signal we send other coaches, teachers, administrators, parents, volunteers, students? This is what we do?” he questioned. “It’s wrong. Not only is it wrong, every one of you on the school board knows it’s wrong. But you have the power to fix it if you have the courage to do so.”
Ryan Murray, a 1998 graduate who played alongside Tom Coverdale on the semi-state team and later at Butler University, said respect, hard work, integrity, loyalty and humility are values he believes are incredibly important to teach boys as they become men.
“These values were instilled in me by my family and my high school basketball coach, Dave McCollough. On a daily basis Coach Mac demonstrated these values. He pushed us on and off the court because he knew what we were capable of even if we as young men didn’t know,” he said. “Not only did I become a better basketball player under Coach Mac, I became a better person. I am truly grateful for everything Coach Mac did for me.”
Murray said he has never been ashamed to say he was an NHS graduate until three weeks ago.
“Sadly these days the values I mentioned don’t mean much in Noblesville,” he said. “This is not the Noblesville I grew up in. The values I mentioned used to get you praised in Noblesville, now it gets you fired.”
Following the board’s announcement of McCauley’s hiring, Murray said he was “incredibly frustrated.”
“Clearly he (McCollough) has pretty significant support from the community. He’s been a positive influence on current and former players. I don’t understand it,” he said. “Hopefully the people of Noblesville will get the chance to vote them out of office.”
After the meeting, School Board President Pat Berghoff said it was NHS Principal Jeff Bryant’s decision to end McCollough’s contract and determination was not incident specific.
“He was a coach for 20 years. His years of service here are greatly appreciated. You would expect there to be support coming,” Berghoff said. “It’s the right thing to do. Jeff came to the board with his decision and we told him we support his decision then and we still do. His (McCollough) contract expired in March. He fulfilled his terms, we fulfilled ours.”