Gary Schaplow has taken over as head boys basketball coach at Hazen after Renton School District administrators fired James Olive on Monday.
“We’ve replaced the boys basketball coach at Hazen with someone we think will be better for the team and better for the kids,” district spokesman Randy Matheson said.
He said Olive, staring his fifth season, was fired for using “poor judgment” in allowing his players to participate in a preseason jamboree at Chief Sealth Nov. 27 without the required 10 practice dates.
“It’s a pretty raw deal,” Olive said. “I didn’t expect it.”
When a snow storm forced the cancelletion of pracitces Nov. 22, 23 and 24, Olive said he knew the team would not have enough practices by that Saturday, especially since the 25th was Thanksgiving. He said he asked the school’s athletic director, Anita Jose, if she would seek a WIAA waiver.
To that point, Hazen had six practices. Olive was then told by district administrators that the team could practice Thanksgiving, twice on Friday and once Saturday morning before the jamboree to reach the required total of 10.
Olive said he knew the majority of his players could not attend a practice on Thanksgiving, so he still would not have enough eligible players for the jamboree. He said he was still under the impression that Jose was checking into the possibility of a waiver and since he hadn’t heard otherwise, let his players participate in the jamboree with nine practices.
“Me being stupid, I assumed everything was OK and we went to the jamboree and played,” Olive said.
He then continued with his regular practice schedule and the Highlanders played three games, going 2-1 with the lone loss by one point in the season opener against Kentwood, the defending 4A state champion currently ranked No. 3.
Olive, a personal trainer, began getting phone calls from some of his players last Thursday saying they had been called into Jose’s office and asked about practice dates. He called the school and said he was told by principal Jay Kniseley he was “under investigation.” He then recevied a call Friday afternoon from Kniseley telling him he was suspended “until further notice” and could not coach that night’s Seamount League game against Kennedy Catholic.
An assistant coach took over and Hazen lost, 89-85.
Olive said he was told Monday administrators were making a coaching change, in part because this violation came during a one-year probation, which would have ended Dec. 28. That stemmed from his use of an ineligible player in a jamboree last season.
“He has shown a pattern of poor judgment in terms of having the kids’ best interest at heart,” Matheson said.
Olive had high hopes for this team, which is expected to contend for the Seamount title. Some of the seniors were freshman on the 2007-08 squad that won just two league games and five overall. The Highlanders went 6-14 the following year and 11-9 last season, losing several close games just missing the playoffs.
“We were ready to go,” Olive said. “I made a mistake and I’ll learn from it. There was some miscommunication and I’ll take the blame for it.”
He said he is happy to see the program in the hands of Schaplow, who coached Hazen in 2001-02 and 2002-03.
“These guys need someone who can take them where they want to go,” he said. “I love coach Schaplow.”
Schaplow, who still teaches at Hazen, coached Tuesday’s 75-54 victory over Evergreen.
Olive said he plans to be in the stands at some point this season.
“Right now, it’s just about the kids,” he said. “I’ll go cheer from them and be their best fan.”