Dori: Was Issaquah HS basketball coach dumped over ideology?

Jan 21, 2022, 2:56 PM | Updated: Jan 24, 2022, 7:41 am
(Photo via Unsplash)...
(Photo via Unsplash)
(Photo via Unsplash)

Early in December 2021, Issaquah High School’s varsity girls’ basketball team was off to a 3-0 start – two years after finishing fourth in the state’s tournament before COVID lockdowns.

At the time, Doug Crandall – a West Point graduate, husband of an Issaquah kindergarten teacher, father of a University of Washington walk-on basketball player, and extended family member of other Issaquah High School basketball alumni – was starting his third season as head coach.

Then, with no explanation as to why, Crandall was called into a meeting with Issaquah school leaders and told he was being placed on administrative leave.

“Give us your keys, don’t contact the players, and stay off campus,” Crandall says he was told by school leaders.

Crandall told Dori Monson Show listeners he remains stunned and uncertain about why he hasn’t been officially fired, but was removed from his role.

Now, after Crandall’s more than 44 post-meeting days of limbo, Issaquah basketball families and players are demanding the district explain when – or if – their coach is coming back.

Is it because the coach spoke out at a spring 2021 Issaquah School Board meeting about negative social and emotional effects COVID mandates were having on student-athletes? Some parents wonder.

Here’s what Crandall had to say to the school board:

“What we’ve done doesn’t follow any science. The science shows definitively that, actually, as the NFL put it, COVID doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage. But I’ll let you read my email and I know some others here have read it as well.

I think what pains me so much is the last thing I put — we have starved our kids from sports, from drama, from school. Our country has done it. Our state has done it. We’re doing it as a district. Then we threw them scraps and now we’ve taken those scraps out of their mouth. There’s no excuse for it.

You guys talked about core values. I appreciated that a couple meetings ago. There’s only one core value any of us involved in kids’ lives right now should care about and that’s selfless service of kids. It’s the only thing that matters. We need to be serving leaders in their lives. It’s what I’m about to do. I’ll toot my own horn for a second. In 15 minutes, I’m going to head to the Issaquah gym and supervise open gym. I’m not doing it for a state championship. We’re not going to do that this year. I’m not doing it for money. I haven’t been paid to coach basketball in well over a year. I don’t do it for the money anyway. I’m not doing it to win games. I’m not even doing it because I love basketball. I’m doing it because I love every single one of those girls. I love them. And they need this right now. Those football players needed it and our kids need to be in school. My wife got back into the classroom as soon as she could because she loves her kids. That’s why she did it. She did it because she loves her kids. I subbed in third grade on Monday. I’ve never done that before in my life. I subbed in … Monday and I fell in love with those little faces within 15 minutes — with Nason, with Zunis, with Annie, with Xavier — they were so happy to be there. And I’m glad they’re back. But I’ve spent the last year monitoring my own son’s mental health, his stability, and done everything we possibly can to make sure he’s OK. And that’s all I care about, quite frankly in my life, is making sure he’s OK. …

I’ll wrap with I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m impatient and I’d like to see some of that from you as well. I’d like to see your hearts broken like our hearts are broken. Show your emotion, get angry, and let’s get back to selflessly serving our kids.”

Was Crandall let go because he is a man of Christian faith? A few community members have asked. Or is it something else? Parents and players want to know.

“In this case, we were ripped away from each other,” Crandall told Dori’s listeners about the loss he feels for his players. “I’ve invested my heart and soul into this program because I care so much about the kids.”

The players told Dori they care, too.

Azra, a junior who plays varsity for Issaquah, told Dori: “We know how good Coach Crandall is. (My teammate) Courtney and I both spoke at a school board meeting about this.”

“Coach (Crandall) was amazing,” Courtney, another junior on varsity, told show listeners. “He cared so much about whether we were doing OK at school, and he wanted us to be happy. That’s rare these days in coaches. That’s why we’re so upset.”

Parents and community members sent dozens of equally supportive emails and voicemails to Dori.

For the district’s side, Lesha Engels, Issaquah Schools’ executive director of communications and digital strategy, responded via email:

At this time, here is the information we can provide as it relates to your request:

Coach Crandall is on paid administrative leave pending an ongoing internal employment investigation.

The leave is non-disciplinary in nature and, while he is on leave, coaching duties are being handled by other staff, including coach Kathy Gibson.

The District understands that this cannot resolve all disruption to the program but is pleased Coach Gibson was available.

As this relates to an internal personnel matter, and out of respect for that process and privacy of those potentially involved, the District cannot comment further.

Dori, meanwhile, questions whether an ideology from district administration or school board that conflicts with those of Crandall might be the cause behind the unclosed leave. He wonders whether it’s the “ideology of zealots in positions in power” that has become “more important that the kids.”

“When that starts to happen, we have a bunch of people in charge that have truly lost their way.”

Listen to Dori’s entire interviews with Coach Crandall and his players here:

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Was Issaquah HS basketball coach dumped over ideology?