Troup Basketball Coach: I’m Losing My Job Because I Testified For Dennis Alexander
Troup Independent School District now has two situations on its plate related to embattled athletic director and head football coach Dennis Alexander’s termination hearing for alleged physical abuse on the football field.
Astin Greer, a utility coach and a team leadership teacher most notable for being Troup High School’s varsity boys basketball coach in his first year with the district, claims he’s the second victim of the process and its very first casualty. He was informed Wednesday his contract won’t be renewed for the 2016-2017 academic year.
Greer believes the decision is retaliation. He witnessed Alexander’s alleged incident, was subpoenaed by Alexander’s legal party to testify at the hearing, and his testimony painted Alexander in a favorable light.
However, regardless of the motive, the school district is within its legal rights to not renew the employee.
A few hours after Greer was given the bad news by interim athletic director John Eastman, Greer and Alexander both granted phone interviews with ETSN.fm while Troup superintendent Stuart Bird responded to an interview request Thursday but could not legally discuss personnel decisions per state law.
"The one thing I feel like everyone should know is that I didn't ask to be subpoenaed," Greer said. "I was subpoenaed by Dennis Alexander because he felt like I knew the story. When I got the subpoena, I was a little worried because I had never been involved in a situation like that. I went to our superintendent at Troup and I asked him, 'Is this going to hurt me in any way with the school district?' His words were, 'No. Just go in and tell the truth.'
"So, Monday, I went in and told the truth. Then, 48 hours later, I was being told I was being non-renewed.”
Bird, the superintendent, was out of the office when Eastman, the interim athletic director and one of Greer’s coaches when Greer was a student at Gladewater High School, informed Greer.
According to Greer, Eastman told Greer it was his decision not to renew the contract.
Eastman acknowledged ETSN.fm’s interview request, but he ultimately did not respond for comment.
Greer signed a probationary one-year contract with the Troup school district.
Not only is Troup within its rights to simply not renew a contract for what is deemed an adverse act, according to a former East Texas superintendent declining to be named, the district is in its rights to not renew a contract down to determining the employee is not a good fit for a school.
It’s a rule, the retired superintendent added, to protect schools from long-term problems with employees. There just isn’t enough hirers can pull from a potential employee during the interview process. Rather, districts won’t really know who they hired until they see them perform on campus.
There’s little legal recourse, particularly because Greer isn’t being terminated. He’s not being given a new contract once this one expires.
But why? That’s the conflict between Greer and a legally gagged district.
Greer cited an e-mail from Bird dated Feb. 16 that praised Greer for his work with a not great basketball team one day after the season ended. The friendly e-mail also suggested Bird was optimistic about the next basketball season under Greer.
Greer improved Troup’s basketball record six-fold during his first season at the helm. The team finished the year 6-21 off of a winless 2014-1015 campaign with a starting lineup usually consisting of a senior, three sophomores and a freshman.
Alexander said he led the charge to hire Greer before the start of the current academic year. His emphasis was Greer’s combined four years of experience as an assistant and sub-varsity level basketball head coach at Chapel Hill and Pine Tree, enthusiasm for the same job opportunity at Troup during a 2014 coaching search, plus the favorable opinions other East Texas basketball coaches had regarding Greer.
Troup’s athletic personnel groupings are complicated, but are no different than any other Class 3A school in the state. Most of its coaches have different roles on the athletics staff depending on the season in session.
Greer’s responsibilities aside from basketball include serving as a positional varsity assistant football coach and head varsity track and field coach.
Alexander, Eastman and Greer all began the academic year with positions on the football team.
Alexander, as previously stated, was the football team’s head coach until Oct. 22. On that date, he was suspended with pay when the district learned that earlier in the week he allegedly made harsh physical contact against one of his players while in front of other team members.
Greer, as the receivers and defensive backs coach, was present for the incident and did not see what transpired as physical abuse.
The Troup school district moved to begin Alexander’s termination process on Dec. 18. It culminated to its present point with Monday’s termination hearing.
The Texas Education Agency, with an agent present and presiding over the hearing in similar fashion to a judge, will draw its own conclusions and deliver a finding to Troup in the near future.
Alexander and Greer both said the specifics of testimonies can’t legally be revealed. Yet both suggested they were on the same side of the argument.
Alexander and his Henderson-based attorney, Ron Adkinson, suspected as much before the hearing. So they subpoenaed Greer and two other coaches on the football staff.
Of the three assistant coaches in total, only Greer actually showed up to testify.
"My attorney didn't get him," Alexander said. "Astin volunteered. Then Astin was subpoenaed. The reason we subpoenaed him, I found out, was because they can be there and know to be there. And then if something comes up, then you can delay the hearing until you get them there. If you don't subpoena them, then you can't delay.
"So, we subpoenaed three coaches and two of them were told to stay in the classroom that day. I didn't know where they were, but we didn't call them because we didn't need to. But Astin got a (substitute teacher) and came on over."
Alexander added he’s of the opinion the Texas Education Agency usually sides with district in matters like his because it is largely in charge of the state’s public school districts.
Perceiving Greer is part of the fallout, Alexander has little faith he’ll be restored to his former capacities at Troup even if he beats his perceived odds and wins the termination hearing.
"I know that they've made it clear that they do not want me to coach," Alexander said. "This thing started out and I said back then that the thing I wanted to do was get this story straight, of what was being said wasn't true. I wanted to be cleared of it. They suspended me with pay and we sat there until Dec. 18 when they had a board meeting and came out on that Friday before we got out for Christmas that they were going to begin termination procedures. Which was going to require going before a hearing officer for the next step.
"That's what finally took place Monday. It's just one of the steps that we go through and there's the next level we'll go to. You know, they're just creating a situation here. I really don't want to say much more than that. That's their call what they've done and it will all play out in the process. But there are laws to protect people and we'll see how this ends up being looked at in Astin's case, too."
Alexander, a 44-year coaching veteran, was met with strong fanfare when he accepted the Troup positions of head football coach and athletic director in 2012.
He controlled other East Texas programs at Hughes Springs, Daingerfield, Henderson and Harleton in sequential order. He won state championships at Daingerfield in 1983 and 1985 and made another state game appearance in 1984.
Alexander began his Troup tenure as the fourth-winningest coach in the state’s history.
Greer sees no positive resolution with Troup, either.
He is preparing to be a first-year coach for a second straight year after fulfilling his duties through the current contract.
"It's not nothing that's been in the plans, apparently,” Greer said. “Apparently, it's something that just occurred. And, heck, I ain't did nothing. All I've done in the last two weeks is testify for Dennis Alexander. So that's all it could be.”