Boots & Sabers

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1117, 04 Apr 15

Fired Coach Files Grievance

There’s an interesting little story brewing in West Bend. Before we get to the actual story, let’s review the context of how it came about.

Despite being a fairly large district, West Bend’s high schools have struggled in competitive sports. They do well in a few areas, but many citizens think that the high schools should be more competitive in sports given the pool of students in the community. Many people attribute the lack of competitiveness to the fact that West Bend has two high schools. (For those who are uninitiated, West Bend has two high schools, East and West, that share the same building. They are divided for organizational purposes, but it is the same facility.) If West Bend combined the high schools, they argued, it would mean a larger pool of athletes for each sport which would lead to better teams. So the argument went…

There was a push last year to combine the high schools with this argument being used as one of the justifications. Since the academics of the two high schools are already almost completely combined, why not fully combine the schools and create one of the biggest high schools in the state with the stable of athletes to compete with the best?

After a lot of heated debate, the decision was made to keep the high schools separate, but as a concession to those who voiced concerns over the lack of competitiveness in sports, the school district created an Athletic Engagement Task Force to review the athletic programs with an eye to improving their competitiveness.

Enter Don Gruber. Gruber was the West Bend East’s girls varsity basketball coach. He had been the coach for 6 seasons and had an overall record of 54-87. Last season, the team really struggled with a record of 3-20. By every account I have read, he was a good coach, a good man, and was well liked by the parents and the students. They just didn’t win very much.

On the same day that the task force gave the board  its recommendations, Gruber was fired. As a personnel issue, the district isn’t giving any specific reasons for his firing and nobody is saying much, but Gruber did file a grievance with the district’s HR department over the firing. It’s not over.

It does bring up the whole discussion of what do we want from our coaches? I don’t know Gruber or his coaching acumen, but many of his former students and their parents have been very praiseworthy of him. In contrast, I haven’t seen anybody saying that he was a bad egg. His team just didn’t win very much.

So what do we want from our coaches? Is the win/loss record the most important thing? He could be the greatest coach ever and just didn’t have good enough girls on the team. Should he be fired for that? Perhaps he was exceptional at developing young minds, attitudes, and bodies, but just a crummy game-time coach? Should that get him fired? What’s most important? But if we, as a community, are going to gripe about win/loss records and championships, can we find fault with an athletic director who is trying to replace coaches who don’t produce winning seasons?

What seems apparent is that Don Gruber lost his job because the community wants championships but was unwilling to combine the high schools to make them more attainable. My gut tells me that this is a reactionary firing, but the roots of it are in the community.


1117, 04 April 2015


  1. Mark Maley

    The firing was unwarranted. Don is an excellent teacher of the game , role model and civic servant . Coaches from the WLT and as close as KML know and respect Fon for the coach and personnel is

    His program is a model of 3 of the 4 pillars reccomend end by the Athletics Task Force . Yet he was fired because a team crippled with injuries and few upper classman couldn’t win . The girls gave their best effort , yet failed to win games .

    The firing is bad, the aftermath is Far worse .

    This past week a few East Girls basketball parents were contacted by the school principal asking about players return of jerseys and practice items that is a fact .

    No reason was given on why the principal made the call during a vacation week ,.

    One would assume that mission would be left to the coach of that sport or the AD

    It’s been alleged that The East AD sent a note to at least one spring coach that 8 East Girls basketball players would be ineligible for impermissible benefits received from Coach Gruber . The benefits were said to be uniforms give to players

    Its also alleged that the East AD reported a violation to the WIAA over these “benefits ”

    When the HS principal called 2 older players parents, he was told that one Senior player had forgotten to turn her uniform in and the Junior player had permission to keep hers until her senior pictures were taken.

    One parent asked specifically if this had to do with eligibility and was told that it wasn’t by the HS principal.

    Some questions are warranted :

    Did the principal call any other athletes in winter sports about their uniforms this past week ?

    Was the HS principal calling to inform parents of their daughters upcoming spring ineligibility but was smart enough to ask first about where their jerseys were ?

    Why were the calls stopped after 2 parents / players were contacted ?

    Was the principal trying to right a wrong he saw in the ineligibility note to spring coaches or furthering a shakedown of athletes until none could be had?

    Was a call placed to the WIAA by the East AD to self report a violation that hadn’t occured?

    Was the players eligibility just a pawn in the Administrations plan to cast Gruber’s willingness to buy items for the program as cheating and turn the area’s “WTF ” concerns about how decisions being made into a smoking gun of liability for Gruber

    Coach Gruber wants and deserves his job back .

    I want anyone who participated in this shake down of student athletes to be fired for cause .

    The whole mess is a petty, callow , arrogant attempt at character assassination of a citizen who has given his all for the Young women in WB
    And had his heart pulled out of his chest for the effort.

    He deserves better
    We deserve better

    MH Maley

  2. Kevin Scheunemann


    Perfect example why there should be a separation of education and state.

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