After 39 years and more than 1,000 wins in high school basketball, including three provincial championships, Pitt Meadows basketball coach Rich Goulet will no longer be beside the bench.
He’s not happy about the way he has been asked to leave, and neither are many of the Marauders’ alumni.
Parents from last year’s team complained to administration, and Goulet has been “fired” from the program he built.
Mike Alain was selected for Goulet’s first Grade 7 all-star team, and was coached by him from 1994 to 2000 – a run that ended in a provincial championship.
“I couldn’t appreciate him more,” said Alain. “My mom has reiterated to me many times that I probably would not have graduated if not for him.”
The headstrong Alain clashed with Goulet, who sometimes yelled until he lost his voice during a game. But Alain never felt Goulet was treating him unfairly.
He said Goulet deserves accolades and to retire on his own terms – not to be forced out of the game.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” he said. “That high school owes him. How is that gym not named after him?”
Bruce Duthie was coached by Goulet from the age of nine until he graduated – also part of that 1992 team.
“I have a huge degree of respect for him,” he said of Goulet, and would like to see him honoured on his way out.
“He pushed us, he was in our face, he worked our asses off, but it was never to the point of, This isn’t right.’”
But some of the kids on last year’s senior team were not used to it, and Goulet believes that’s part of why he was asked to quit coaching.
“They think I was negative, because I gave a lot of speeches about what they needed to do to get better.”
Goulet outlines a frustrating season, where many of his Grade 12 players were simply not willing to work up to the standards of the program. He said he had to fight with players, and bench them, to get “a basic effort.
“We weren’t even competitive at triple-A … My goodness.” he said. “I never ask anyone to like me when I coach them. I just ask them to do what I want them to do.Maybe I got cranky.”
If he crossed a line, he said some of the players were also disrespectful to him.
His assistant coach, Ron Wallsmith, doesn’t recall any incident that would have led to Goulet losing his status as coach.
“Those things don’t stand out in my mind,” he said.
Goulet said the school board conducted an investigation into parent complaints, and afterward he was asked to return and help run the program – but not on the bench.
“Why would I do that? You just fired me as a coach,” he said.“I’m not here to impose myself to people who don’t want me.”
Neither the school board nor Pitt Meadows secondary principal Mike Keenan would comment, saying personnel matters must remain confidential.
Goulet feels he was not given a fair hearing. He had been retired from teaching for 14 months, coaching as a volunteer, and says the school administration can dismiss a volunteer at a whim.
Walton said coaches around the province have pulled out of Pitt Meadows’ annual Air Show Tournament, and threaten to boycott games against Pitt Meadows. Their schedule could be affected.
Goulet is going to miss it.
“I won’t miss all the work, or going to practice at 7 a.m. in a freezing gym,” he said. “But I love basketball, and I love people who love basketball.”
• Basketball B.C. Hall of Fame inductee;
• Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award winner;
• Three-time provincial champion coach;
• Coached approx. 4,000 games at all levels;
• Has been coaching high school basketball in 1965;
• Coached provincial and national teams;
• Founded and administered the Steve Nash Youth Basketball league in Pitt Meadows.