The future of the Warren County High School basketball program and coach Malcolm Montgomery was in the balance when Montgomery and WCHS athletic director Todd Willmore went to Hermitage on Monday to visit with TSSAA officials.
Facing possible fines, suspensions or even a cancellation of the basketball season, Warren County walked away from the meeting with $500 in fines and the reinstatement of coach Montgomery as the boys basketball coach effective immediately.
According to TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie, coach Montgomery received an indefinite suspension from Warren County High School following actions surrounding Friday night’s game in Van Buren County, one which ended after coach Montgomery directed his team off the court following two technical fouls in overtime.
Gillespie and the TSSAA have not sent an official letter to Warren County High School, but Gillespie detailed the finer points of Monday’s meeting.
“When the school (Warren County) met with our office, they informed us that the coach was indefinitely suspended,” said Gillespie. “Based on the facts provided, the TSSAA agreed with the school’s decision that the coach could be re-instated by the school immediately.”
Initially, Warren County was fined $1,000 for three violations. A $500 fine was handed down for coach Montgomery removing the team from the floor prior to the completion of the game. A $250 fine was accessed for players leaving the bench and fans entering the court resulted in another $250 fine.
After further review of the film, the TSSAA decided the players and fans coming onto the court was not in response to an altercation, but because the players and fans were under the assumption the game had ended.
Because of the review, Warren County’s fine was lowered to $500 for the forfeiture of the game.
In a separate statement Tuesday, Willmore said the school would fully cooperate with the fines delivered by the TSSAA.
“After meeting with officials from the TSSAA and discussing the events of Dec. 2 at Van Buren County High School, the TSSAA ruled Warren County High School was in violation of three of the association’s by-laws; forfeiture of a sanctioned game, student-athletes leaving the bench area and fans coming onto the court,” said Willmore. “After further review Tuesday, the TSSAA ruled two of those violations were not applicable to the situation.
“Warren County High School and the Warren County Athletic Department are in complete agreement with the TSSAA sanctions and will abide fully with the fine issued.”
As for the issue with coach Montgomery and any resulting suspensions of the coach or players who left the bench, the TSSAA felt the actions did not need to be punished.
“As a result of the several events which unfolded throughout the contest and ultimately compelled coach Montgomery and the Warren County High School men’s basketball team to leave the court, the TSSAA did not feel a suspension of coach Montgomery or any Warren County High School student-athlete was warranted,” said Willmore.
A possible suspension for coach Montgomery was rumored after reports surfaced Montgomery may have come into contact with a Van Buren County player while leaving the court.
Supervisor of officials Ken Melton declined to release the official’s report from Friday’s game, but did confirm the report included Montgomery contacting a player.
Montgomery was not given a fine for technical fouls received in the Van Buren County game. Warren County was called for three technical fouls in overtime, but Gillespie said fines only occur if a coach is given two direct technical fouls. That was not the case Friday.
“By-laws stipulate coaches will receive a fine for two direct technical fouls which result in an ejection,” said Gillespie. “From the game report, the first technical foul was given to the Warren County bench and Montgomery received a separate technical foul directly.”
Warren County and Van Buren County have a scheduled game on Feb. 13, but principals from each school are in discussions on whether the event will carry on as scheduled. The game is supposed to be at Charlie Dalton Gym and is the last scheduled regular season game for Warren County. The Feb. 13 contest is also scheduled to be “Pink-Out” night, where money is raised for breast cancer awareness.
Warren County principal Anthony Cassel wants to keep the game on the schedule.
“I have every intention of playing the game,” said Cassel. “We want to get the kids back to playing basketball.”
Van Buren County High School was initially issued fines totaling $500. Principal Chris Binkley had not received official notice, but expected to receive a $250 fine for players leaving the bench and $250 for fans coming onto the court.
After Tuesday’s review though, the fines for Van Buren County were removed and any other punishments stemming from Friday’s game will be handled internally by the school.
Warren County will return to action on Tuesday, Dec. 13 against the Middle Tennessee Heat. The game will double as “Whiteout” night, where students can buy toilet paper at the game to throw on the court following the first made basket by the boys team. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.