Jackson County Times-Journal
JACKSON — Jackson High School has gained an unfavorable reputation as a revolving door for varsity boys basketball head coaches.
The latest Ironmen mentor abruptly exited as of Monday.
Heath McKinniss, the JHS boys basketball coach of the past two seasons — has resigned that position, effective June 30.
The Jackson County Times-Journal confirmed McKinniss’ resignation with Jackson City Schools Superintendent Phil Howard late Monday afternoon.
McKinniss’ resignation letter to Howard was actually dated on Thursday (June 14), and offered no reason for the resignation in its entire three-sentence paragraph:
“I regret to inform you that I wish to resign my position as the Jackson High School Varsity Boys Basketball Coach, effective June 30, 2012. I will fulfill my duties as head coach through that date. Thank you for the opportunity to serve the Jackson City Schools in this capacity.”
McKinniss’ resignation will not impact his teaching duties at Jackson Middle School.
He returned a text message on Monday night seeking comment, and simply said:
“I would like to thank the administration and school board for the opportunity to coach this program. The support from those people along with the parents, players, coaches and community have made this program special, and for that I am very appreciative. Jackson Ironmen Basketball is better now, because of the effort everyone involved dedicated to it.”
In a separate text message, McKinniss said “at this time, I do not wish to discuss the reason for my resignation.”
That resignation also marks the end of McKinniss’ controversial two-time tenure as a head varsity basketball coach within the district.
McKinniss led the Ironmen to a 9-13 record this past season, as well as a berth in the Division II sectional championship tilt against Chillicothe.
But he actually only coached in the final 17 games, having served a school-imposed suspension at the outset of the year.
McKinniss had been suspended — by the Jackson City School District — from the time period of Wednesday, Nov. 30 (2011) thru Friday, Dec. 16 (2011), which spanned the first five games of the season.
The suspension followed an investigation into McKinniss’ conduct following the Ironmen’s preseason scrimmage against Fairland on Nov. 22.
Howard provided the following statement to local media members — on Dec. 1 — in regards to that incident:
“Recently, allegations arose regarding the conduct of the boys varsity basketball coach of the Jackson City Schools. After a full investigation by the administration, the coach was provided with a pre-disciplinary hearing before the superintendent. The coach admitted that he threw a chair in the locker-room and it accidentally struck a player, who was standing behind him and outside of his view. The facts showed there was no intention to hit any player with the chair. The parent of the player who was struck participated in the investigation, and did not want the coach to be removed from his position. After evaluating the information obtained from the investigation and listening to the coach’s position on the matter, discipline was issued against the coach. The coach was reminded in writing that throwing any object is not an appropriate way in which to motivate his team, and in doing so could have had serious consequences, such as injuring a student-athlete. The coach was suspended from coaching duties from Nov. 30 thru Dec. 16, 2011, and docked 10-percent of his coaching salary.”
“My job requires balancing the interests of treating employees fairly and requiring them to act in a professional manner when dealing with students. As always, the safety of students is of utmost importance at Jackson City Schools,” said Howard.
McKinniss made the following statement to the media himself:
“I deeply regret my actions in the locker-room following a scrimmage on Nov. 22, 2011. Throwing any object is an unacceptable way to display emotion and/or motivate a team of student-athletes. While accidental in nature, the fact that an object I threw struck a player is unacceptable and a very regrettable action. I am very sorry for the embarrassment this has caused the families involved, the community of Jackson, Jackson City Schools and Jackson Ironmen basketball,” said McKinniss.
On Monday, Howard explained that “as far as the district is concerned, he (McKinniss) had served his punishment.”
“The district had previously suspended him and docked his pay accordingly, for the event that took place at that time,” said Howard.
As late as Thursday and Friday of last week, rumors were swirling that the Ohio High School Athletic Association had somehow been contacted about McKinniss’ case.
The Jackson County Times-Journal addressed an e-mail to Tim Stried, Director of Information Services for the OHSAA, on Monday evening about any OHSAA-imposed suspension of McKinniss.
McKinniss went 5-16 in his first season with the Ironmen, including four late-season victories over teams with at least 11 wins.
It was his first season as the varsity boys head coach, after spending three seasons as a men’s varsity assistant at the University of Rio Grande.
He was hired as the Ironmen’s head coach on April 13, 2010.
McKinniss coached the Jackson Ironladies in 2005-06 and 2006-07, and served as an assistant to head coach Dustin Ford and the Ironmen boys in 2004-05.
Howard’s predecessor, Steve Anderson, decided not to renew McKinniss’ supplemental contract as the girls head coach following the 2006-07 season.
The matter remained a source of controversy until McKinniss’ successor, Jay Martin, was hired in late May.
Since Ford’s final season in 2004-05, McKinniss was the Ironmen’s fourth head coach since.
Todd May (2005-06 and 2006-07) and legendary Larry Jordan (2008-09 and 2009-10) coached for two years apiece, before ultimately resigning when their second seasons concluded.
Bruce Hurst headed the Ironmen in 2007-08, but resigned in early August 2008.
For Howard, he has the responsibility of filling the boys basketball head coaching vacancy for a third time — in only four years.
“The position of head boys basketball coach has been posted internally as of today (June 18),” he said. “It will remain posted for internal candidates for five days as per the union contract. If there are any internal applicants, we would examine their credentials and meet with them before looking at outside candidates.”
Although it isn’t as late as mid-August, when Jordan was hired exactly a week after Hurst had resigned, mid-to-late June isn’t much better.
The Ironmen are currently in the middle of their summer basketball league, which consists of play every Tuesday throughout the month of June at JHS.
“The timing of this is not good for the district, as most coaches are currently under contract and have begun their summer programs. Also, teachers and coaches in general are not switching jobs as much as they used to for fear of losing their seniority,” said Howard.