Callister responds to his terminationCANNON FALLS — Former head boys basketball coach Chip Callister got a chance to respond to the Cannon Falls School Board Monday following his ouster July 25.
By: Nick Gerhardt, The Republican Eagle
CANNON FALLS — Former head boys basketball coach Chip Callister got a chance to respond to the Cannon Falls School Board Monday following his ouster July 25.
Callister read from a written letter which
addressed the four reasons the board cited as reasons for his non-renewal. The board said Callister lacked a clear, organized and linear boys basketball program for grades 7-12; had a lack of effort for a top-rate program; had an ineffective strategy; and lacked support from parents.
Callister didn’t intend to win back his job, but instead raise awareness on how things like his situation can snowball.
“I didn’t come here to get my job back,” Callister said. “I felt there was a need for awareness with how these things get out of control.”
Callister learned of the reasons for his termination Aug. 2 when the board notified him with a letter. It was the first time he’d seen any of the reasons for his termination.
On April 25 the School Board voted on a motion for the non-renewal of the boys basketball head coach. The vote ended in a 3-3 split with Rob Siebenaler, Brenda Owens and Jerry Reinardy voting in favor of the non-renewal. Board members Curt Beissel, Pat Dougherty and Bob Brintnall voted against non-renewal.
The split vote meant Callister remained as head coach. But following the initial vote the board brought the issue up at its July 25 meeting where it passed a motion for non-renewal 6-0.
“This was a termination vote,” Callister said. “My question is: Why a second vote?”
Brintnall, the board’s chairman, described the second vote as procedural, a vote the board does a season before a sport begins.
“The first one is essentially to put the coach on notice that we’re going in a different direction,” Brintnall said. “I would almost say it’s a courtesy to the coach.”
On April 25 the non-renewal issue came to the board via the activities director and superintendent, Brintnall said. If the board had voted in favor of non-renewal at that time a search for a new coach would have started then.
Brintnall voted against non-renewal at the April 25 meeting because he felt he didn’t have enough information to support non-renewal. Brintnall changed his vote at the July 25 meeting after hearing criticism of Callister’s game management.
“There were more phone calls asking my why and I hadn’t heard a lot of support,” Brintnall said. “The more people I talked to it seemed like he didn’t have a lot of support. I think game management is what people consistently brought back to me. It wasn’t just a few people.”
Callister contends the vote at the July 25 meeting served as a second vote to fire him.
Callister believes had the School Board followed the communication policy it established his situation could have been avoided.
“We have a very clear communications policy where if a parent has a problem they go to the coach,” Callister said. “It should never go to the School Board. … If the School Board followed the communication policy we’d never have these problems.”
A public forum, the first in Brintnall’s 17 years as a board member, following the end of the regular meeting lasted nearly a half hour with much of the public speaking in support of Callister.
John Erickson, the president of the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association, traveled from Detroit Lakes to speak on Callister’s behalf.
“Our concern is what has happened here in the past month has become commonplace throughout the state of Minnesota and it’s a growing concern,” Erickson said.
Trouble seemed to start for Callister in the spring following basketball season. Callister started several seniors when the basketball season began, but after a 0-5 start he went to a lineup filled with underclassmen. Callister didn’t hear any complaints until after the season.
A letter written by Deb and Joel Hendrickson addressed Callister’s preference for starting younger players instead of playing seniors.
“He has selected a style in which he chooses younger players to advance and relegates entire classes to not playing, to win in one or two years, leaving many seniors to sit on the bench when they could have participated in winning just as many games as the younger players,” the letter read. “These players deserve their chance to play.”
The same letter described an experience where the Hendrickson’s son was left out of a pickup game during an open gym in the summer.
“My son came home devastated,” the letter read. “He loved to play basketball and had played every year in school until that point. After that he did not go out for basketball anymore and he had stopped playing at home. Chip knows about this incident as I called him that evening. He has nothing to say about it, never apologized, never talked to my son about it and never called back.”
Callister said he apologized.
“I said, ‘I’ll do anything I could to make this better,’” Callister said.
“I believe this is only a difference in philosophy between me and some disgruntled parents because some are frustrated that I don’t travel around the state and play in weekend tournaments throughout the summer,” he added.
Callister said he did not play in many summer tournaments because of the high cost and the difficulty of finding players to fill a roster. Once he signed up for a tournament for varsity players and when the tournament came around he was left to fill the team with eighth-graders after the varsity players had other time commitments.
Since Callister took over as head coach in 2001 the Bombers have won three conference championships. Prior to his arrival the school had just one. His playoff record, however, became subject to criticism. Callister had one playoff victory in his tenure as head coach.
Callister became the third Bomber coach in the last three years to have his position non-renewed, but Brintnall denied any trend.
“It doesn’t happen all that often,” Brintnall said. “Just because it’s happened in the last few years doesn’t mean it’s a trend.”