Hantsport residents rally behind volunteer coach fired hours before playoff game

Brandon MacInnis says the decision to remove him as the boys basketball coach at Hantsport School is unjustified. (Submitted by Brandon MacInnis - image credit)
Brandon MacInnis says the decision to remove him as the boys basketball coach at Hantsport School is unjustified. (Submitted by Brandon MacInnis - image credit)

The Hantsport School junior high boys basketball team was about to play their first playoff game of the season last week. But two hours before the game, the school administration dismissed Brandon MacInnis, the team's volunteer head coach.

"They told me that it was in the best interest of the kids that I was no longer going to be needed as their head coach and to turn in my keys," said MacInnis.

One of his long-standing coaching philosophies is for his players to be on time for practice, he said. Some of his players were fooling around in the locker room as practice was about to start last week.

"I hold the team to be accountable for their actions and because they were a little bit late we ran some line drills," said MacInnis.

The drills are common, and see players line up on the baseline of the gym and run up and down the gym floor.

Submitted by Brandon MacInnis
Submitted by Brandon MacInnis

None of the players complained and the rest of the practice went off without a hitch, he said. Players left the court pumped up for their first playoff game, set for the next day.

But MacInnis said school principal Jan Routledge and vice-principal Ian Morrison told him they did not agree with his disciplinary measures.

They declined a request from CBC News to be interviewed. A spokesperson for the Annapolis Valley Centre for Education said the school will be looking for a new volunteer coach for next year.

'Proud of those boys'

The players on the team were shocked to learn before the playoff game that their coach had been let go. They made the decision to stand behind their coach and did not play the game, which resulted in them losing by forfeit.

"I am very proud of those boys who said that if I wasn't going to be their coach, they would no longer be playing," said MacInnis, who won a high school provincial basketball title as a player at Horton District High School in 2007 and played two years of college basketball at Crandall University in Moncton.

Chelsea Yeaton
Chelsea Yeaton

"This whole thing could have and should have been handled differently by the school."

News of the coach's dismissal spread quickly in the small community. Parents of the Hantsport players are upset, noting they weren't notified by the school of what happened.

"My first reaction was shock followed by heartbreak," said Lizz Cochrane. "I know what the boys think of Brandon and how excited they were to be playing that playoff game. There were a lot of tears and a lot of upset boys."

"Brandon has always been positive with the kids and a great coach," said Kristy Webster. "It was quite shocking and there was definitely some anxiety because there was no communication."

Standing ovation

MacInnis showed up at the gym a few days ago to watch the Hantsport girls' team play a playoff game. When he walked into the gym, members of the boys team who were at the game went over and gave him hugs and the crowd attending the game gave him a standing ovation.

Members of the girls team wore white patches on their uniforms with the letter B to honour Brandon.

"It was pretty special and it was a pretty powerful moment," said Cochrane. "I'm sure it felt pretty special for Brandon to see the support from the community because he's genuinely a fantastic person."

MacInnis said he'll never forget the feeling he got when he walked into the gym and received that reaction from the players and fans.

"It was really overwhelming and the community support from our players, players on other teams, other coaches, it is just truly jaw-dropping and inspiring," said MacInnis.