Brett M. Kavanaugh has his new day job on the nation’s highest court but is still “Coach K” on the basketball court.
The Supreme Court’s newest justice was back in action over the Thanksgiving holiday leading his younger daughter’s team to the championship game of a tournament in the Washington suburbs.
In one of the more contentious moments of his bruising confirmation battle, Kavanaugh lamented that sexual assault allegations against him might mean he would have to give up coaching.
“I love coaching more than anything I’ve ever done in my whole life,” Kavanaugh said during the Senate hearing in which he angrily denied Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he assaulted her when they were teenagers in the 1980s.
“But thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed,” he said, referring to the panel’s Democrats, “I may never be able to coach again.”
In the seven weeks since Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed to the high court amid mass protests, he has kept a low public profile.
Kavanaugh skipped the traditional walk with the chief justice down the Supreme Court steps after his formal investiture. The court cited security concerns. He was not the featured speaker at the Federalist Society’s annual gala this month, as Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was last year shortly after his confirmation.
But Kavanaugh has quietly returned to some rhythms of the life he led before his confirmation, when he was a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington. He has resumed serving meals to the homeless at Catholic Charities and is also back on the basketball sidelines.
Joe Sego, who organized the Turkey Shootout tournament in Hyattsville, Md., last weekend, said he never doubted Kavanaugh’s reemergence on the basketball court, even with heightened concerns about the justice’s schedule and security — and the possibility of public protests.
“I was very concerned when the confirmation hearings were going on that we could run into some issues,” Sego said in an interview Tuesday. “But I figured since a little bit of time had gone on and things had kind of settled down, that it would be okay — and it was. There was no issue whatsoever.”
The presence of Kavanaugh’s protective detail added a new dimension to the tournament. One father, whose son was playing in the tournament, tweeted a photo of Kavanaugh on the court at DeMatha Catholic High School.
“He had security, but there was no commotion,” said Sego, a coach and athletic director at St. Jerome in Hyattsville.
Kavanaugh’s return to coaching was first reported by Deadspin.
From the moment President Trump announced his nomination in July, Kavanaugh’s enthusiasm for coaching his daughters, Margaret and Liza, was part of his own narrative as a champion for girls. Parents of his players from the Blessed Sacrament parish in Washington’s Chevy Chase neighborhood submitted a formal letter to the Senate. They praised “Coach K” as a “devoted coach and mentor to our daughters” and a “true student of the game.”
More than a dozen current and former players sat behind Kavanaugh in the committee room during the first, less heated round of hearings before Ford’s sexual assault allegations were reported. He introduced by name each of the girls, who wore the plaid jumpers and kilts of their school uniform.
“I love helping the girls grow into confident players,” Kavanaugh said. “I know that confidence on the basketball court translates into confidence in other aspects of life.”
The appearance of the girls in uniform prompted complaints from some Blessed Sacrament families.
It also attracted criticism more broadly that he was invoking his support of the team as part of a larger effort to blunt objections to his judicial record, including on abortion rights.
Kavanaugh’s passion for girls’ hoops has not subsided, despite his new role.
He texted Sego, the tournament organizer, late Sunday to find out which team had won the under-14 division, even though his older daughter’s team was not in contention. Riverdale Baptist defeated Little Flower.
In the under-12 championship match, Kavanaugh’s team faced an uphill battle and lost to Holy Redeemer of Kensington.
The justice did not immediately respond to a request through a court spokesman for comment on the score.
“He knew he was a big underdog,” said Sego, who was seated by the bench and could hear Kavanaugh coaching.
“It’s easy to get frustrated with a group of preteens,” Sego said, “but he had his girls fighting all game long.”