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HEBRON ESTATES - Brian Courtney did not expect to see himself sitting on the sidelines coaching the North Bullitt Eagle basketball team this season.
At least not after his promotion to assistant principal this fall.
But Courtney has indeed returned to the bench to complete the rest of the season for the Eagles.
On Jan. 6, 2014, Dick Briggs was terminated from his position as head basketball coach for North Bullitt.
According to information secured by The Pioneer News through an open records request, Briggs was terminated as a paraprofessional coach with the school district.
He was charged with unprofessional conduct for an incident on Dec. 26 during a holiday basketball tournament in Edmonson County.
Briggs was accused of shoving a player in the back. Also, there was an allegation on the following night that several players were seen coming back from a McDonald’s in Bowling Green, near the team’s hotel, without any supervision after midnight.
Briggs came to North Bullitt this season to become the junior varsity coach and the assistant varsity coach. He previously served as an assistant coach at Southern High School.
When Courtney was selected for the assistant principal’s position in October, he was forced to give up the basketball position.
Superintendent Keith Davis said there is no written policy on assistant principals serving as head coaches; however, the unwritten rule has been that administrators are just to busy to devote the added time to lead an athletic team.
Given the point in the season when the new vacancy arose, Davis said Courtney was allowed to serve out the season in both roles.
On Tuesday, Briggs said he did not appeal his termination. At the same time, he was upset that he was never given the opportunity to state his side of the story. He was given the opportunity to resign, which would have allowed him to apply for future jobs. Briggs refused the resignation offer.
On January 6, Bullitt County Public Schools Superintendent Keith Davis terminated Briggs’ coaching contract. That certified letter gave the reason for the simissal as ‘unprofessional conduct.’
While understanding that some players may have gotten out of the hotel rooms after he went to sleep, he does not know who the players were. He said all the players were accounted for at the time he retired just after midnight.
The tournament at Edmonson County included both the North Bullitt boys’ and girls’ teams. Because his wife, Amber, coaches the Lady Eagles, Brian Courtney was on the trip. It was Courtney who called North Bullitt athletic director Ryan Bringhurst with the initial report and Bringhurst drove to Bowling Green the next day to investigate.
Bringhurst, Courtney and Briggs did not meet upon Bringhurst’s arrival because of a game in progress, but they met later that evening. Later, Briggs said that he thought a decision on his future had already been made before the meeting.
“My gut feeling?” Briggs said on Tuesday. “I feel that Courtney wanted to coach the team. I know he was upset when he wasn’t allowed to coach this season. I would have been also. It was a tough situation all-around. When we had the conflict, that opened the door (for a change).
“The decision was made before the first meeting,” the former coach added.
“I did get on his case,” Briggs said of the confrontation with the player. “But, I didn’t shove him.”
In a highly redacted statement given to The Pioneer News that was written by Bringhurst and Courtney, it was noted that Bringhurst talked with Briggs at 11:45 a.m. the following day and that ‘Briggs stated that he was angry with the player and that he expressed that and he put a hand on his shoulder. He denied shoving the player.’
Later than morning, Bringhurst reported speaking with assistant coach Alex Young who ‘said that he did not see a shove occur nor did he hear the comment.’
The report then states that Bringhurst spoke with a parent (redacted) who reported ‘she saw the incident and heard the comment. She said in her view it did not appear that the shove was anything more than Coach Briggs trying to get the attention of the player. She said had it been her child with the coach that she would have requested that meeting with parent, player, AD and coach take place.’
It was then in the report that Bringhurst spoke with another parent ‘who said he witnessed the situation and described it in similar detail to Brian Courtney and state that he felt the shave was “excessive”.’
The report then said that Courtney and Bringhurst met with Briggs at 9 p.m. after games on the second day of the tournament.
‘During that meeting Coach Brigs was asked to describe what happened and he stated that he did not remember either the comment or the shoving incident. Coach Brigs refused to answer questions about the players being unsupervised out of the team hotel.’
After that meeting, Bringhurst suspended Briggs. In an odd twist, Briggs had to drive the school’s van back to North Bullitt on Saturday. Bringhurst then drove the van back to Edmonson County to transport four players back after the final day of the tournament who did not have parental rides.
“I think there is a lot more to it than meets the eye,” Briggs said. “It’s he said, she said. I asked who the accusers were and I was denied that request. I should have been allowed to present my side.”
“The McDonald’s part is probably true,” the coach admitted. “I was in the lobby of the motel at 12:15 a.m. and everything was fine. I went to bed. I asked later who it was (that was out) and they wouldn’t tell me that either.”
Coming into the situation at the last hour to coach was difficult, especially since he knew Courtney really wanted to continue coaching the team. But that was not possible when he was selected assistant principal.
Young actually coached the team in the final game of the Edmonson County event, a game the Eagles won. Courtney then took over the team for a tournament a week later at LaRue County.
After a win over Bullitt Central last Friday, Courtney said that he could not comment on the coaching situation.