SALMON — The Salmon High School girls basketball varsity and junior varsity coaches abruptly resigned Thursday, effective immediately, after the varsity coach’s vehicle was vandalized, sparking safety concerns and suspending the season, at least for the moment, the school’s athletic director said.
The news shook the nearly two dozen players on the two teams tied to Salmon High School and left school officials scrambling to determine if the severe damage to the coach’s vehicle would pose a broader threat to any stand-in coaches seeking to help the teams’ complete their schedules, which includes two more weeks of regular-season play before district tournaments, said athletic director Jeremy Burgess.
The vehicle of varsity coach Richard Barany was found Wednesday evening with its tires slashed and at least one headlight destroyed while parked outside the high school in Salmon. The incident happened as the coach and team traveled for a game at West Jefferson, Burgess said.
Barany and junior varsity coach Sarah Foster rightly feared for their safety tied to actions by an unknown vandal or vandals, said Burgess.
“You can’t blame them for doing what they did,” he said of the coaches’ resignations.
Yet the developments have created uncertainty and led to a sense of disarray in a program that affects the school district, the players and even other teams that would expect to generate revenue for admission to games that Burgess said he is hopeful will not have to be canceled.
A game scheduled Friday at Ririe was forfeited on Thursday. That loss drops Salmon’s record to 2-14.
Burgess said he is to meet Monday with the superintendent of Salmon schools and the high school principal in hopes the seasons can be salvaged.
He praised the coaches for their contributions. Asked about Barany’s two-year tenure with the team, Burgess said the coach was “a very nice guy who built relationships with the girls. From a high school point of view, that’s what you want. We’re sad to see him go.”
Barany declined a request for comment late Thursday. But Burgess said the decision to leave was not one that Barany, who came to the high school with two decades of coaching experience, took lightly.
“It wasn’t something he wanted to do but he felt with what happened, it was in the best interest for him and his family,” said Burgess.
The veteran athletic director said he has never before experienced a situation of this kind. He said that such a major disruption at the end of a season that began in late October is a challenge that he believes players can overcome.
“But the girls are obviously very upset,” Burgess said.
Hailee Davis, 18, a senior who plays forward for the varsity team, said she was heartbroken by the departure of a coach she trusted, respected and admired.
“He was a good coach. He didn’t play favorites, he had great ideas and he stuck with us, even when we were on a losing streak,” said Davis, one of the team’s captains.
Davis said she and two other captains had difficulty breaking the news to their teammates, adding that feelings of loss have been intensified by the realization that their coach was at the center of what appeared to be a personal attack. She said other cars were parked at the high school Wednesday night and none of those appeared to be vandalized.
“It’s just very, very sad,” she said. “We could count on him as our coach and we don’t have a lot of people willing to do that for us.”
Burgess said it has been a struggle for Salmon and other communities across the state and nation to attract and retain coaches at a time when a higher number can’t be drawn from the ranks of educators.
“When positions come open, we don’t get a lot of applications,” he said. “It used to be, 20 or 30 years ago, you would get coaches from within the district, who were school employees. In today’s world, you’re lucky if those are half your coaches.”
Burgess said some conflicts had arisen with parents tied to coaching of the girls varsity team but noted such tensions were all but inevitable in Salmon and elsewhere.
He added about the incident involving Barany’s vehicle, “We don’t know the motive. It could just be a random act of violence. But any way you look at it, it’s just plain wrong.”