Gilbert Christian boys basketball coach Steve Currier was fired Tuesday, less than a year after leading the team to the Class 1A state championship.
Currier led the Knights to a 32-0 record and the title last season, and the team is currently ranked No. 1 and a heavy favorite to repeat this year. He went 139-36 with a pair of state championships in his seven years at the school.
Currier said a prominent financial donor, who has a son on the team, and other parents wanted him out because they believed his coaching style was too negative. Currier said the financial discretion held by the parents of the players handcuffed the administration’s decision-making abilities.
Gilbert Christian superintendent Jim Desmarchais declined to comment on the specifics surrounding Currier’s exit on Tuesday night. An e-mail and phone messages left Wednesday morning were not immediately returned.
“The pressure was too great for the administration of the school and while they openly admitted that there was no evidence that would substantiate a warning, let alone, a terminable offense, they terminated me,” Currier wrote in an e-mail.
Currier said he was summoned to an impromptu meeting with Desmarchais, three board members, the donor and his de facto attorney on Monday. Currier said Desmarchais later asked him to take a sabbatical or suspension, but Currier refused.
“I am saddened and disappointed by the decision of Gilbert Christian and find this to be a poor reflection on how conflicts should be resolved,” he wrote.
On Tuesday night, a couple players said assistant Jim White would take over as interim coach, but Desmarchais said that was still to be determined. Justin Allen coached the team on Tuesday night, a 76-44 victory against Veritas Prep in the team’s first game without Currier on the sideline.
“We’re working through the process because this all happened so quickly,” Desmarchais said.
Gilbert Christian went 12-3 under Currier this season. Two of the losses came vs. 5A teams Chandler and Phoenix Central, and the other was to a team from Oregon in a holiday tournament.
The Knights haven’t lost to anyone in 1A this season.
“It’s tough, but at least it’s at a good time before state where we can get adjusted to a new coach,” junior Connor Patterson said Tuesday night. “We have time to jell with him.”
Currier said he would like to see the Knights win another state championship, even if he won’t be on the sidelines to experience it with them.
“I want to thank every player that has been in the program, all the loyal fans, especially my wife and sons, and most of all God for allowing me to coach,” Currier wrote. “I will miss the relationship with this year’s team and all of the assistant coaches and wish them the very best. It is my hope that there will be another opportunity to stay in basketball in the future.”