What would Jesus do? Basketball coach sacked for 100-0 game

January 26, 2009 in Basketball, Religion by pacejmiller

“What would Jesus do?” has now been applied to high school basketball.

Covenant School is a private Christian high school in Texas.  Micah Grimes, coach of Covenant’s girls basketball team, was fired after his team defeated Dallas Academy 100-0 on 13 January 2009.

Following the game, Covenant posted the following statement on its website last week: “It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition.”  Apparently, the school was ashamed that their team was allowed to run up the score against their obviously out-classed opponents.

Coach Grimes was dismissed by headmaster Kyle Queal following an email from Grimes to a local newspaper disagreeing with the school’s assessment of the blowout (though it’s unclear whether it was directly related).  Grimes said in his email: “In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Web site, I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed.  We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”

Does anyone else find this ridiculous?  When I first read that a basketball coach was fired for a 100-0 game, I thought for sure it was the losing team’s coach that got the sack!  I almost fell off my chair when I read on and discovered that a coach was dismissed because, essentially, his team was too good and the other team was too crap.  It’s not his fault his girls had game.  It’s also not his fault that the other team had none.  The most he could have been asked to do is to pull out the starters and substitute the benchwarmers on.  What could he, as a coach, possibly have done?  Ask his team to stop playing hard?  Stop playing defense?  Stop shooting?

I don’t think anyone that has ever played organised or competitive basketball would not be outraged by this.   It’s not like it was a team of professionals destroying a bunch of kids out of sadistic pleasure.  These were two teams from the same division, same age group, playing competitive team basketball.  As someone who has been on the wrong end of a couple of basketball drubbings in his lifetime (50 points), I would be far more offended and insulted if my opponent started pitying our team and stopped competing as best as they could.  I don’t know what Jesus would have done, but it’s certainly not an “honorable” approach to competition by going easy on your opponent.

[UPDATE: a friend of mine agreed that it was wrong to fire the coach but thought it was bad form for a team to keep their foot on the pedal even when the other team was down by so many points.  I should make it clear that my point is not that a team should continue to demoralize their opponent when they are well ahead (personally it’s not what I would do if my team ever found itself in such an enviable and unlikely situation!) – it’s that the coach should not be punished/criticized because the team continued to play hard despite having an unassailable lead.  It’s not like they were crossing over their opponents to make them stumble or bouncing balls off their heads to make them look bad.  Coach Grimes made it clear that the intention was not to run up the score so they could reach some sort of landmark victory, but to continue to compete hard no matter what the score is.  I don’t see a problem with that (if what he says is true – there are now witnesses who claim the coach cheered and urged the team to get to 100).  My other point was that it’s fair enough to form the view that what they did not was honorable, but there was no need to bring Christ into the discussion.]