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Gig Harbor fires football coach Darren McKay

Post by Doug Pacey / The News Tribune on April 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm with 27 Comments »
April 13, 2012 4:58 pm

The Peninsula School District fired Gig Harbor High football coach Darren McKay this afternoon. McKay remains a teacher at the school.

McKay’s firing comes less than 24 hours after an outpouring of support at the district’s school board meeting. Click here to read more about that.

UPDATE (4:50 p.m.) — Here’s my story:

Less than 24 hours after listening an outpouring of support for Darren McKay, Peninsula School District superintendent Terry Bouck fired Gig Harbor High’s football coach Friday afternoon.

“Guess I’m going to have to update my resume,” said McKay, who led the Tides for 12 seasons.

Since December, McKay has been fighting the district’s decision to place him on an improvement plan that also called for him to fire two assistant coaches – his father Mike and brother Sean – by filing a grievance.

The grievance has reached the state level and to McKay’s knowledge has not been resolved, he said. Still, on Friday he was given a termination letter, which cited his failure to cooperate with the improvement plan and not showing satisfactory improvement to his evaluators, McKay said.

“I got fired for standing up to (the district),” he said.

Bouck said the decision to not renew McKay’s coaching contract was his, saying McKay was offered a plan for improvement and had not shown sufficient improvement.

Bouck would not discuss details of McKay’s evaluation or improvement plan, citing employee privacy laws.

In December, McKay received a positive end-of-season review from athletic director Dale Johnson. Days later, he was called into a meeting with principal Ted Strong, who told McKay that he must consent to the improvement plan if he wanted to remain as head coach.

According to some of the 35 people who spoke out in favor of McKay at Thursday’s school board meeting, the district used results of anonymous online surveys to form its judgment – a conclusion McKay’s supporters say is inaccurate.

After the initial meeting with Johnson and Strong, who has been on administrative leave since March when he was arrested for DUI and misdemeanor hit-and-run, in December, McKay was required to attend follow-up sessions to track his progress on the improvement plan. At one session, Strong suggested to McKay he attend a coaching clinic to show he was making an effort to follow the improvement plan. McKay replied that he already planned to attend the clinic – as an invited speaker.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Bouck, who is retiring in June, said he appreciated hearing public comments, which came from players, parents of current and former players, assistant coaches, teaching colleagues and a rival head coach, among others. No speakers supported the removal of the McKay’s from the football program.

“This meeting was for us to listen,” Bouck said Thursday. “We’re processing it right now.”

The public’s words were not enough to sway Bouck and the “processing” didn’t take long.

That McKay was fired so quickly after the meeting was frustrating to Ray Garries, chairman of Gig Harbor football boosters.

“Kind of shocked it happened 12, 18 hours later,” he said. “One of the things we all asked for is transparency and consideration, to see what the problems were. Obviously, that was ignored.

“I’m stunned at the speed of how this happened.”

McKay, who compiled a record of 77-41 at Gig Harbor, said he wants to coach again and will consider his options. His youngest son Carter, who plays football, is a sophomore at Gig Harbor.

“I’m going to look at other possibilities,” said McKay, who lives in Fircrest. “I have to take into consideration not just myself, but how it will impact my family.”

Leave a comment Comments → 27
  1. footballmama says:

    Well, once again, the PSD leader and his gang of brown nosing hacks have screwed over Gig Harbor High. He should be fired now, and School Board, the voters will remember this.

    Mr. Glover was spot on last night in the term “railroading” – because that’s what was done to the former principle, Greg Schellenberg. That’s what was done to the former basketball coach, Tom Adams, and that’s exactly what has been done to the McKays.

    A little history – he forced out the former principle based on bad PR over the “kiss” and “dance” media stories and complaints from a handful of parents. He hand-picked the successor, who was actually one of the members selected to be on the first principle selection committee. He sat in as an interviewer for the first round of interviews, only to be brought in as an interviewee for the second round, even though he had no experience on his resume as a 4-year high school principle. The only qualifications he had were that three references he listed were people interviewing him and the other one listed was the superintendent himself. Needless to say, the fix was in. When the political and underhanded process was brought to the attention of a School Board member, she refused to take action based on her belief in the vision of the Superintendent. She chose to look the other way – and I wonder, how is that “vision thing” working out now?

    He forced out the basketball coach because one player threatened a lawsuit. Not taken into consideration was that the rest of the team and their parents supported and fought for the coach, who himself was a GHHS alum. To drive out a young coach, who guided his players to the State tournament in his second year of coaching, based on anonymous accusations was just phase two of the railroading of the McKays. Phase one was another lawsuit, one that the Superintendent wanted payback for.

    He wanted payback because he can’t handle challenge or problems. Anyone who has witness his temper will verify that statement. His method to take care of the situation was to have his hand-picked principle change Coach McKay’s review from positive to a negative outcome. He directed the anonymous and non-scientific survey because he needed back-up, which by the way, provided results that were not indicative of the actions since taken by the District. Underhanded, secretive, vindictive – just a few words to describe the process by a superintendent and principle who never witnessed a football practice.

    All those people went to stand up for what is right last night, and the Superintendent didn’t show any respect for them by his sudden “silence act.” Solidifying that disrespect was a session that ended with a question about what the Board was going to do next – the answer was “well, we’re going to finish our meeting.” Really? Again, it was apparent to me the fix was in again.

    If using an anonymous survey is how this district is going to “railroad” people out of it – which coach or teacher is next? What a great precedent to set – not. Just what quality educator will want to come here with that type of tactic?

    And a question, just how does one evaluate a football coach in the off-season? What was it that needed to be improved upon over the winter?

    In closing, I ask the PSD to send out another survey to GHHS parents, past and present. Let’s see how many of them have faith in them and the hacks in their midst. I’m happy to help with the suggested questions. When the real answers come back negative Mr. Bouck and Board, can we fire you?

  2. mhhlilsis says:

    Dear Football Mom,
    It is very clear you care very deeply about GHHS and have put together a thoughtful analysis on what you are describing as a pattern of reactive/arbitrary leadership. I don’t dispute your characterization of the Basketball Coach and the troubles surrounding his dismissal. I agree with your conclusions. I do believe that School Districts will avoid uncomfortable confrontations and sometimes PC wins over fairness.
    I do think that Darren had some very good qualities, but I did not support the Family Mckay as the coaching staff. Darren had a choice. He could continue coaching and would have to work with new assistants and he would not be able to hank pick them. He decided that was too onerous. I come from a very successful coaching family. Coaches hall of fame, etc, and I did not believe that the family dynasty was an ideal one for kids. Darren made his choice to not respond to the improvement plan. Whether it was right or wrong in it’s conception is non negotiable at this point. By not complying, which was required to stay, he basically decided to leave. I don’t see how the “fix was in” if the result was a direct consequence to a choice he made not to comply.
    I hope he finds another place to coach, but I also hope he doesn’t recreate the environment he did at GHHS by bringing in family members. It just doesn’t work and is not a coaching staffing standard in successful programs.
    I know that a lot of families in GHHS area are very split on this, and I hope that it does not impact the students in any negative way going forward. I am sure the email flurries are fast and furious.

  3. kerbyhyland says:

    I guess they are tired of winning at GHHS. McKay will be on opposing sideline soon, too bad!

  4. DrugsDelaney says:

    I nominate Sam Baurichter for head coach. Chris Keller for assistant coach. Those two could throw a football over them mountains.

  5. This is unbelievable. Peninsula School District has completely lost it’s integrity and class. This is a complete embarassment to our community. Ted Strong, Terry Bouck, Michelle Dumpert, Jill Uddenberg, Kevin Entze just to name a few should be very afraid. Your days of secrets,lies and un-ethical treatment will be coming to an end. There are alot of people that want to see you all fall very far, you have hurt GHHS in so many ways, we will not forget…especially now.

    Lets see, what do you all have in common, oh yes, not one of you have had a son play football for Coach Mckay, you wouldn’t know how he possitively impacts young men at such a important time in their life. He helps them become disciplined young men, he doesn’t throw them away when they make mistakes and he believes in them and therefore he teaches them to be their best. We have heard many many boys over the years of Mckay being their coach say, “GHHS Football was my best memory of high school” “Football helped me stay in and finish school” “If it wasn’t for coach I would have messed up my life” “He (coach) was tough, but it taught me about life”….

    GHHS will suffer from this decision, students are affected already and will not forget, community is questioning district decisions again, parents have lost respect for our leaders….

    Shame on you all….

  6. footballmama says:

    Lilsis….the method in which this travesty happened is proof of how Bouck operates. Whether or not you agree with the dynamics of the coaching staff, we should all be alarmed and outraged over the path this process took.

    The fix was in when the principle illegally changed a positive review into one stating the need of an improvement plan. And the fix was in when two coaches were banned from even stepping foot on the field, with no explanation, leaving wide open the speculation of horrific accusations.

    In regard to Coach McKay having a choice to comply, he had no other choice but to defend the honor and integrity of his father and brother…..any decent person would do the same for their family. And a decent and honorable man is just what Darren McKay is.

    What a shame the superintendent isn’t.

  7. brett987654321 says:

    I second the nomination of Sam Baurichter and Kris Keller as the new head coaches. That would be hilarious.

  8. BalanceHarmony says:

    As a local coach with 13 years of experience from youth through high school one will always find someone that lacks appreciation for a coach’s time and effort. A coach can have a significant impact on an individual’s life and that is why I volunteered thousands of hours to present personal responsibility and ethical behavior as underlying values in a team format. These young men now have a reference resource to apply to their lives while being confronted with others that lack such an experience or skills.

    Youth sports promotes physical exercise, teamwork and fun. I was always able to guide a player to positive behavior on the field, not always the case with parents. Parents lacking the awareness of their inappropriate influence to the small community that is a team drains the positive energy generated by the coach and continued with the players. It is obvious from qualified player and parent feedback that Coach McKay is a positive impact on players in his program. So too is it obvious that there is a negative drain of energy from some source yet to be exposed. Please note that there is no waiting line for qualified experienced high school football coaches. What kind of coach would apply knowing the environment?

    At best the handling of The Survey, proposed improvement process and ultimate termination demonstrates a lack of requisite professional knowledge and skill. Actions speak louder that words. Creating just cause with The Survey indicated a lack thereof. I hope we don’t suffer an unnecessary financial drain as an outcome.

    Read more here:

  9. ConcernedCoach says:

    Dear LilSis,
    As a member of Coach McKays staff I find your comments interesting. Did your son or sons play for us? If No then you have no basis in fact to make a judgement other than personal. If Yes was he maybe better in your eyes and were you hoping that “Johnny” would get a scholarship. High school football is not PYF, everybody gets a chance but the best players play irregardless of grade or what your last name is. As a coach you need people around you who are competent and you can trust. If their last name happens to be the same as yours should make no difference. And one more thing, define successful programs that you say a “family environment” cant succeed. Numbers dont lie 77-41 at GH over 100 wins total 11 or 12 straight years to the playoffs numerous Narrows League championships, NFL quality players numerous division 1 scholarships and players playing small colleges. Past players returning almost daily to say thanks to coach and his staff. A football environment where being accountable for your actions and personal responsibility and integrity are preached from the time a kid enters the program as a freshman. Coaches who may at times raise their voices because thats what coaches do but never do you hear profanity laced tirades that is common at other schools. Oh yes a very unsuccessful family environment to say the least..Please..Also yes axghmom one member does have a son in the program and that would be Jill Uddenberg. Her son is very good kid and I do like him but the staff changed his position this year from one he had played all through PYF to a new more demanding physical position. One he was not happy about. The reason for the change was purely football related. In order to play that position at the 4A level you have to have a certain level of speed and agility. The change wasnt made because the coaches dont like you..There are great kids in the program and some of the best parents i have had the pleasure of knowing. I wish them all the luck in the future because they will be sorely missed. Oh one more thing dig deeper folks this story sprouted roots in 2010, the survey was just an ends to the means. This goes back to a superintendant who was embarassed and unhappy that a coaching staff was exhonerated by a 3rd party of any wrong doing in a hushed up discrimination complaint filed by a certain high profiled recruit.

  10. DrugsDelaney says:

    I also nominate Joel Capel as track and field coach, Johnathan Rhodes Travis as drivers ed instructor, and Joseph Grady as tennis coach.

  11. Very interesting that all but one of the comments here that have been left in support of the decision have been deleted (presumably) by someone on the News Tribune staff.

  12. I have a log of all comments left on this blog and no comments have been deleted on this post or the previous post related to this topic.

    Doug Pacey
    High school sports coordinator
    The News Tribune

  13. Doug, then I’m not sure who deleted mine. It wasn’t even in support of the decision, but rather to point out that it is obvious by comments like that made by Axghmom why nobody spoke out at the Board meeting in opposition of Mr. McKay. Who wants to go on her hit list? Who wants their child on her hit list?

    There was also a well written comment made following mine. To give you the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume it was removed by the poster. Mine was NOT removed by me, by the way.

    That person’s question was very relevant: in what other profession can someone completely ignore the directions of their supervisor and expect to keep their job?

  14. SBC1224,

    You left a comment at the end of this story:

    Is that what you’re referring to?

    Doug Pacey

  15. And where is the so called AD in all of this. Providing zero leadership as always!!

  16. PolishPrince says:

    So much rumor and behind the scenes to this story, wish they’d be reported at some point. I’m shocked and saddened for Coach McKay, his family, his players, and the Community of Gig Harbor. Coach McKay was nothing but an amazing role model for me when I played for him many years ago. In one year as my coach I learned more about the game, and life, than in all my other years of football combined. My wife and I were actually thinking of Gig Harbor as a landing spot for our family, in part because I would have loved to have them play for Coach McKay. I hope he ends up in a community that appreciates him. – Former Player

  17. My apologies Doug, you have two articles with almost the exact same title and some overlap with the comments — My fault!

  18. wabubba67 says:

    principal (the person with the office at a school)
    principle (a thought or idea held by an individual or group)
    irregardless (THERE IS NO SUCH WORD), regardless will work just fine.

    More time in the classroom, less time on the field in Gig Harbor?

  19. wabubba67….you’re a tool….

  20. SBC1224,

    Not a problem. I posted this Friday afternoon when the news broke. Then filed the same story and our publishing system turns it into an article, too, which is where you originally posted your comment.

    Folks, discussion and disagreement is fine, but keep it civil.

    Doug Pacey

  21. wabubba67 says:

    I just find it ironic that in a blog about an athletic program within a public high school, that the English language gets caught repeatedly in the crossfire. I’m also a teacher and a coach…so that probably makes me a tool (dealing with parents and administrators for a relatively low salary).

  22. I’m an immediate fan of wabubba67!

  23. Nicedad2000 says:

    If S.Kitsap football is smart they’ll have McKay under contract before the ink drys on his GH pink slip.

  24. wabubba67 says:

    That would be a great move by South Kitsap! It’s probably too logical to ever happen, though.

  25. wabubba67 says:

    I thought that the funniest part about the article was Strong suggesting that McKay attend a local coaching clinic as part of his improvement plan….only to be informed by McKay that he was one of the invited speakers at that clinic. Ooops!

    Administrators are often the most clueless people in education (including the students).

  26. ConcernedCoach says:

    Wabubba yes we have laughed at part of the improvement plan since it was presented. Not only does Coach McKay attend clinics every year his entire staff does as well. Just goes to show how out of touch those who sit in judgement are with reality. Every year there is a preseason parent meeting where proceedures for complaints and contact info is giving including personal cell phone numbers. Mr Strong was invited every year as this is something common Coach McKay does. He attended only one and fell asleep during his one appearance. We understand we are not perfect and we also understand we will not please everybody thats just reality but our job was to win football games and build young men into well rounded adults. I think the record speaks for itself that we succeeded more times than we failed.

  27. The GHHS Football program under Coach McKay had success on the field. That cannot be disputed when you look at the winning record. A successful season has been the norm. Was the community as a whole completely on-board with the McKay program? How long does it take to achieve that TOTAL community buy-in for a small town high school football program? It doesn’t happen in too many communities, but it does happen. In this case, twelve years makes for an adequate sampling. It never happened, even with the winning seasons.

    Why didn’t the program get to the next level? There is a long list of great young student-athletes that walked through the doors of GHHS in the past 8-10 years, yet the program was rarely, if at all, in the Championship discussion each October. It’s not the water in certain towns that makes it easier to compete for and win Championships. Only a total community buy-in in the program puts the kids of a high school football program in position to win titles and be in the title talk year after year after year.

    Why was the bulk of the paid staff not part of this community? It may not be a requirement to live in district, but it does make a difference. Anyone care to guess whether or not Coach Otton at Tumwater lives in and is a huge part of his community? Look at the success of that program and compare community involvement. The support is there just as it is here. You have to be able to capture it. That is the challenge.

    Coach Adams lasted two years at a school that is not considered a hoop factory by any means yet look at what he accomplished. He took over a disappointing 8-11 team. He and his staff produced 30 wins, two districts appearances, one State appearance. Four weeks later he’s gone. Tom had the pleasure of being at the drivers seat as the boys ended the season of four of our biggest rivals in those two years; Olympia, BP, Foss and Mt. Tahoma. That is an impressive two year sample set.

    Was he on the way to developing a program that the community was ready to embrace? We’ll never know thanks to our local “leadership”. Where was the community outrage then?

    I inquired as to why there wasn’t anything more than one sentence in the TNT about Tom’s firing. I never received an answer. I guess it wasn’t newsworthy.

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