AHWATUKEE, AZ — Desert Vista High School parents are rallying around their high school basketball coach after he was suspended for pushing a player. Schools have recommended that coach Gino Crump be fired.
The incident happened on December 13 at Phoenix St. Mary's High School. Desert Vista varsity team beat St. Mary's in overtime, and things escalated. Coach Crump grabbed the player and pushed him away from the St. Mary's crowd.
The parents of that player filed a restraining order against Crump, who hasn't been allowed to coach the basketball team since the incident. According to court documents, the restraining order was dismissed on December 31 by a Phoenix judge.
Crump's lawyer is Buddy Rake, the head basketball coach at Phoenix Thunderbird. Rake told ABC15 that Crump was trying to de-escalate a situation to prevent another fight like the one that broke out at Central High School when Cesar Chavez High School took on Mesa Skyline and a punch was thrown in the handshake line.
Desert Vista parents are rallying around Coach Crump, even creating a petition to show their support.
Carolynn White's son is a freshman who plays for Crump. She said she doesn't want him to be fired.
"It hurt my heart actually. Because I know the man that I've met would do anything to protect those kids," said White. "It's unfortunate. There is no set rule on how you break up a fight that could be dangerous to the kids."
Video of the game shows that the Desert Vista team bench was only a few feet away from the home crowd in the stands. After the game, both players and students engaged, and things were escalating before leaders from both teams broke apart the crowd.
"We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard as well, make sure our kids are behaving. It should've never gotten that far," said White.
Leaders at Desert Vista High School recommended that Coach Crump be fired. The Tempe Union High School District will decide whether to accept that recommendation in a meeting scheduled for January 15.
Parents and those supporting Crump will meet Wednesday, January 8 in hopes of convincing school officials to change their minds.
Brian Gessner is the State Commissioner of Officials at the Arizona Interscholastic Association. He said sportsmanship issues are getting worse every year across the state. He said the AIA started cataloging ejections a few years ago, and they've seen a drastic increase since 2016.
"Players will follow coaches’ behavior. Fans will follow coaches’ behaviors. If we have a knucklehead coach, we probably have knuckled players and issues with fans," said Gessner.
Gessner said the crowds, specifically parents, are also a problem.
"What they say and how they act in the stands is becoming more acceptable and it's not," he said.
The AIA wants to impose stricter penalties for people ejected from games. Gessner also said he wants schools to do more.
"There will be significant increases and certain games suspended depending on the violation that they offend," said Gessner.