By Chris Yow
TRUSSVILLE — The Trussville City Schools Board of Education met Monday night, and despite a vocal crowd on hand, mostly there in support of former head basketball coach Jim Sanderson, took no action in his matter. The board approved a recommendation, however, to give Marcus Thomas an additional supplement of $7,301 as head boys basketball coach at Hewitt-Trussville High School, effective for the 2015-16 season. His total supplement is now $10,165 for the year. College and career coach Wesley Murphy was given a supplement of $3,818.50 as varsity assistant basketball coach at Hewitt-Trussville High School.
During the regularly scheduled meeting, 16 individuals spoke to the board, with the majority speaking in favor of Jim Sanderson’s reinstatement from leave as basketball coach.
Sanderson was placed on leave as head coach of the Hewitt-Trussville basketball program on Sept. 28, 2015. He is still employed by the school system as a teacher.
Varsity basketball player Glenn Horsley has seen four basketball coaches in his career at Hewitt-Trussville High School, and was very emotional when speaking on Sanderson’s situation. Although the basketball team’s first practice was held Monday night, Horsley showed up on many of his teammates’ behalf.
“Most of my teammates wish they could be here,” Horsley said. “Because tonight was our first practice. Unfortunately, our first practice will not take place with our Coach Sanderson. I did not understand why (he was placed on leave).”
Horsley made mention of a camp the team visited to play against other teams from around the region, and said the team held their own. But when the students returned to school, it seems a different story was told.
“We turned into a real team over the summer; that is due to Coach Sanderson,” he said. “Trouble started with one of two players. It created a firestorm of controversy over the way he treated us. None of this is true. It’s just not.”
Former Southern Conference basketball official and Trussville resident Greg England recalled his working relationship with Sanderson as very positive.
“I worked Faulkner University’s games on many, many occasions, and I had a good working relationship with Coach Sanderson,” England said. “Coach Sanderson was always very professional and took care of business on the basketball court.
“He was very professional with his players. He expected them to do what they needed to do to play at a higher level, and he will do that at Hewitt-Trussville High School.”
Several others who spoke in Sanderson’s favor shared many of the same sentiments about how their children were becoming better basketball players and better people because of Sanderson’s style of coaching.
Sanderson also spoke at the meeting, breaking the mold from his previous statements of being disappointed.
“The question I’ve been asking of the people that are above me is this, ‘If you discover that there is dishonesty and impure motives behind what has happened, would you change the decision?’ And I have not gotten a good answer,” Sanderson said. “If the answer is yes, I got a great chance. If the answer is no, then that says something about the individual that I sent the question to.”
When Sanderson arrived, he described fourth period basketball as “a mess,” noting students who did not want to work out among other things.
“It was a pretty bad situation.
“I’m not here just to get a paycheck. I cannot tell you how many times I have been to lunch and dinner with countless parents and kids,” he said. “I feel like we have empowered kids to think it’s okay to do what you want to do and there’s no repercussions. Sometimes you have to give kids some tough love. That’s just part of the growing up process.”
Sanderson also admitted there is a learning curve from coaching college sports to high school.
“I was worked to adjust my style of coaching, but I have not one time gone over the top,” he said.
One parent who spoke, Victoria Howell, said she was proud of the kids who stood up to speak out about the way they feel. She described the process as “democratic”.
“I applaud, particularly the players, who have come here tonight to voice how they feel and show their support,” she said. “The fact they are standing up is exemplary.”
She went on to say she believed the issue of Sanderson began a long time ago and said some players had very serious issues.
“I think they showed their passion for their sport and also showed their passion for being able to stand up for what they believed. To continuously go out to practice and do what they were asked to do because they have a passion for their sport. They showed their true character by being able to stand up for what they believed in, whether it was in support of the things that were happening with (Sanderson), they still went to practice day-in and day-out.”
After hearing from the audience, the board went into executive session to discuss the good name and character of an employee.