Thursday, April 26, 2012

A commentary on the firing of Dave Brown

Captain Renault (in the film "Casablanca"): I've often speculated why you don't return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Run off with a senator's wife? I like to think you killed a man. It's the romantic in me. 

Rick: It was a combination of all three.

No, ex-Miramonte High Boys Basketball Coach Dave Brown isn't related to nor is he the reincarnation of the Rick Blaine/Humphrey Bogart "Casablanca" character, but he isn't coaching the Matadors next season.

His sin or sins?

Being unsuccessful?

No, it's not that.

Did he go Bobby Knight on a player or fan or parent?


Break the law in some manner?

Thumbs down.

No, he is guilty of simply doing what he was hired to do -- his job.

Ultimately, that is assessing talent, playing those student-athletes in the order he judges worthy so that his school/team will have the optimum chance to succeed.

But unfortunately not in the eyes of Miramonte Principal Adam Clark who decided his school's boys basketball program needed to be guided by a different conductor.

Clark's exercise of authority and his judgment, and the appropriateness of each, is at the core of this particular situation.

What isn't in dispute is that Clark had the power to release Brown but rather the the factors in his decision to do so.

The following is a memo from Coach Brown encapsulating his situation:

A Statement From Dave Brown
Former Head Coach, Miramonte High School Boys Basketball

"After learning that I had been dismissed, without explanation, from my coaching job, many of you asked how this could have happened. I can assure you that it was not due to my job performance, especially given the incredible season we had just completed and my six-year track record at Miramonte.

During those six years, we won a DFAL title, were NCS runner-ups twice, averaged 18 wins per season, had a student-athlete receive Miramonte’s first ever Division 1 boys basketball scholarship, advanced to the NorCal quarterfinals three times, and won the only two state playoff games in school history.

We earned five NCS Scholastic Championship Team Awards; launched a community service project for frosh, JV and varsity players; and built a program of high character young men who worked hard, strove for excellence and cared deeply about each other. Moreover, our student-athletes demonstrated exemplary behavior on and off campus and were repeatedly praised by Principal Adam Clark who did not encounter any problems with our players.

So if I excelled in every area where job performance is measured, why was I dismissed from my position as Head Coach of the Boys Basketball program?

This past Friday, Mr. Clark told me the reason why I was fired, and it involved the only area in which we had disagreed during his three-year tenure:

Earlier this season, Mr. Clark told me that I needed to play several varsity players more than they had been playing, specifically when the outcome of games was still in doubt. One of those players was his son.

Based on my integrity and commitment to fairness for all team members, I disagreed. And that is why I have lost my job.

The players he instructed me to play were ranked near the bottom of our depth chart. These players were hard working, high character seniors who earned the opportunity to be part of our varsity team but were not as skilled as those ahead of them. These young men played in nearly half of our games and started and finished the game on Senior Night -- an incredible victory over Campolindo High that few will ever forget.

I want to stress that prior to Mr. Clark’s unexpected intervention, I was never made aware of a school policy on playing time. Nor had Mr. Clark previously micro-managed these issues. I recently surveyed other Miramonte coaches and basketball coaches throughout the state about the proper role of a principal in terms of playing time issues. Their response was consistent and clear: such actions are unheard of and should never take place.

A year ago, we had a similar-sized varsity roster with several high character seniors who earned limited playing time, and I handled these issues the same way as I did this year. Mr. Clark, however, did not get involved with playing time issues at any point during that season. In fact, he told me several times that he fully supported my playing time decisions.

Mr. Clark should not have been involved in playing time decisions, especially with his son on the team. He blurred the lines between his role as parent and principal – creating a clear conflict of interest – and then used his administrative powers to unfairly dismiss me."


In addition to face-to-face encounters where Principal Clark attempted to influence Coach Brown’s decisions regarding playing time, here are two emails Coach Brown received from Principal Clark which document Clark's direct involvement in this concern:

From: Adam Clark
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2011 07:13:12 +0000
To: Dave Brown
Subject: Couple of Basketball Comments


I know I touched on this at the coaches meeting, so I wanted to give you a heads up. Comments are already starting to head my way from families that have been involved in the program about 30+ point blowouts and players getting 1 or 2 minutes. I know you have a large team and that is a challenge. But with practices and games 6 days a week frustration does set in with kids and families. I am not entertaining these remarks or comments but thought you should know. More than likely I will not attend the SLO tournament because I do not want to get caught in the middle of this because the brackets look challenging which means less opportunities. So handle as you wish, it's a long season.

Adam Clark

Followed by:

Forwarded Message
From: Adam Clark
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2011 04:11:24 +0000
To: Dave Brown

Congratulations on your win tonight. I think it is wrong and unacceptable that you still have 1-5 players that have played only a minute or two in 6 preseason games. I do not support that and do no support the program heading in that direction.

Adam Clark

------ End of Forwarded Message


Below are the MaxPreps links to the Miramonte rosters and player stats from the past two seasons. They demonstrate that in both seasons there were several student-athletes who did not play on a regular basis.

The 2011-2012 Miramonte varsity roster
The 2010-2011 Miramonte varsity roster

In summary, the firing turns on but one single factor -- concern about playing time --  not W-L success, community service participation or behavioral issues.

Digging deeper, the question is not whether Principal Clark had the prerogative to act as he chose to do so.

That's evident.

But what is wrong is Clark not recusing himself from this matter because of the inherent conflict of interest due to his son being a member of the group of players who played very little. 

Absolute transparency is a requirement in this situation --  a core value that cuts to the heart of this incident -- because the matter of whether acting as principal or parent, or a combination thereof, cannot be distinguished here.

It's also worthy to state that it is the dominion of a coach to determine who will play, how much and when because he or she has the expertise and access to do so. Note that no student-athletes have stepped forward complaining that the combination of players placed on the court by Coach Brown didn't give Miramonte the best opportunity to succeed. Supposedly, only some parents did so.

Additionally, Principal Clark certainly changed his mind between the first and second emails which, granted, he has the right to do so. But an explanation of why is deserved.

Returning to "Casablanca" - Rick: "I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

Yes, there are enormous tragedies out there and, in the proverbial grand scheme of things, the letting go of Dave Brown isn't nestled among them. But the ignoring of the so-called minor injustices begins an inurement in many of us to the absolute human value that no malpractice should go unchallenged, let alone continue.

1 comment:

  1. A FANTASATICALLY written and chronicled article. Also superb placement, advisedly so, of numerous direct quotes, communiques, and other accounts evidencing the clear misconduct of Miramonte's principal in his handling of this matter. With a "character" like Principal Clark measuring and ajdudicating matters of character and performance at Miramonte, EVERY parent, student, and member of the Orinda/Miramonte community and district at-large should seriously reconsider their own decisions to continue to empower and support him. As a recent resident and parent in neighboring Walnut Creek, I am thoroughly disappointed, disheartened, and disgusted, and quite certain that Adam Clark will NEVER be the chief administrator at MY child's school.