T.C. Williams dismissed boys’ basketball Coach Bryan Hill on Oct. 31, one week before the start of tryouts, upsetting some players and their parents, who say a school board member brought about the firing.
Alexandria City Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Lloyd declined to provide a reason for Hill’s dismissal, citing privacy requirements for personnel issues, but seven parents of six players on the team said they saw Alexandria School Board member Bill Campbell orchestrating Hill’s removal over the past year in what three parents called “an abuse of power.” Most of the parents spoke on condition of anonymity because their sons remain students and athletes at the Alexandria school.
Campbell, who has two sons in the T.C. Williams basketball program, denied the claim and said he acted in his proper capacity as a board member to bring players’ and parents’ concerns to the school administration’s attention. Campbell said eight varsity players approached him during Hill’s first season in 2014-15 with varying concerns about the coach’s behavior. Those included questions about the team’s selection process and the use of profanity in practice. Campbell said he initially defended Hill, but after one of his sons made the varsity roster last season, he saw the behavioral problems first-hand.
“Even at the end of that first year, there were really irate parents trying to convince me and the athletic director and others that the program was not moving in the right direction and we needed to be more diligent with our oversight of the program,” Campbell said.
Several parents said Campbell approached them during the 2015-16 season to discuss a desire to remove Hill, who was set to begin his third season with the Titans on Monday. One mother said Campbell brought another school board member to a game last year and the two of them approached parents to discuss an effort to dismiss the coach. A father said Campbell called him after a game and repeatedly disparaged Hill and voiced his displeasure that Hill was coaching the team.
Campbell declined to respond to any of these specific claims and referred questions to Lloyd.
Other parents said they knew of no more than three families who disliked Hill’s coaching style, but not his character.
In a meeting with school administrators in December 2015, even the families critical of Hill backed his retention as basketball coach, the seven parents said. The parents said Campbell called a second meeting in January 2016 about the coaching staff with principal Jesse Dingle. No other parents or players attended that meeting, according to multiple sources.
“With every coach there are pluses and minuses,” said Jeff Harold, whose son is a senior and played on the varsity team the past two years. “The great things that Coach Hill did for the program greatly outweigh the little things we were told that he did to be fired.”
The decision was made Oct. 31 to dismiss Hill, who is a certified special education teacher at the school and teaches algebra. He will continue to teach at the school. Campbell and Lloyd declined to say who made the decision to remove Hill, who held two separate contracts with the school system for his employment as a teacher and his supplemental pay position as a coach.
According to school district policy, termination of a supplemental pay contract requires one party to “give reasonable notice to the other party before termination” of the agreement. Hill said he was fired on the spot without prior notice.
Asked about the termination procedure, Lloyd did not provide any details as to the “reasonable notice” provision of Hill’s coaching contract.
Hill said the school’s principal and athletic director told him he was being removed from his coaching position because he drove a player home from practice without the permission of the player’s parent and because he held a Sunday practice. Hill said the player was one of Campbell’s sons. He said he had permission from all other parents to drive their children and did not think bringing a player home after practice was a punishable offense.
Campbell declined to answer questions about whether either of his sons received a ride home from the coach.
Interview requests for school administrators, including principal Dingle and Athletic Director Steve Colantuoni, were referred to Lloyd, the school district spokeswoman. Dingle announced Friday he would leave the school after the academic year, and Colantuoni is set to step down in January to become the commissioner of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. Colantuoni, when reached directly, declined to comment on Hill’s dismissal.
At a meeting for players and parents on Wednesday, Dingle, Colantuoni, Campbell and other school system administrators refused to discuss any reasons for Hill’s dismissal.
The school opened applications for a new head basketball coach over the weekend, Lloyd said. That process closed Sunday, and school officials likely will hire a coach on an interim basis this week. The school did not have a coach for any of its three levels of boys’ basketball on Monday, when tryouts began, parents said.
Initially, Hill’s assistant coaches said they would not pursue the openings, Hill and parents said, but they have since agreed to apply at parents’ urging.
Hill’s teams went 21-17 in his two seasons and finished second in the Virginia Conference 7 tournament in 2014-15. Hill was named the conference coach of the year that season.
T.C. Williams’s first game is scheduled for Nov. 29 against Edison.