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Spartans want answers after Bassett banned

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The future of South Jefferson girls basketball coach Pat Bassett is in question until a public meeting at 6 p.m. Monday night at Wilson Elementary School in Adams Center.

Bassett — who has spent the last 13 years building his program into the standard for success in the area — was told by school officials on Tuesday that he is not allowed to coach his team for the time being. But no official suspension was levied, said South Jefferson senior and basketball player Austin Stevens.

Stevens said the team showed up to practice Tuesday to see junior varsity coach and longtime Bassett assistant, Steve Zaluski, running drills on his own.

He then informed the players that Bassett was not allowed to coach and that he couldn’t provide any more details.

Bassett wrote in a text message to the Times that he is unable to comment on the situation.

“All they’ve told us is that he’s not allowed to coach us right now and that’s all they could really tell us,” said Stevens, who has played on the varsity team since being called up at the end of her eighth-grade year.

“It frankly pisses off our players quite a bit. I’ve talked to several people on the team and they all think that this is being handled very poorly and that he’s not being treated very fairly at all. That’s why we’re upset with this,” she added.

Stevens’s father, Roy, was part of a group of seven parents and one grandparent that met with South Jefferson Central School District superintendent Jamie Moesel and high school principal Karren Denny on Thursday.

He said the group asked point-blank if the allegations against Bassett involved physical or sexual abuse and they were told: “Absolutely not.”

“I’m sure when this all comes out, I think you’re going to see that it’s not something that’s as big of a deal as its being made out to be,” Roy Stevens said.

Roy Stevens said the group requested two things: Bassett’s reinstatement until the district decides what actions it will take, and the postponement of two scheduled games until after Monday’s meeting.

He said that the latter of the two was granted, and now the players and others will simply wait until Monday night’s meeting.

“From what I understand, it’s a definitive answer one way or another,” Roy Stevens said. “They’ll listen to what everybody has to say and at the conclusion of that, they’ll go back and cast their votes — yay or nay — and depending on that outcome, we’ll either have a basketball coach or we won’t.”

He added: “If people want to come out and say something positive about coach Bassett, that’s great. If they have a complaint about coach Bassett, I would think that’s a good time to step up and say it. … Whatever the case may be, let’s air it out.”

Austin Stevens said that several players, her included, would leave the team if Bassett is not allowed to return.

“There’s nothing really we can do right now. We’re just waiting for Monday so we can see what’s going to happen. Hopefully it turns out good, but if it doesn’t, we’re prepared for that, too,” she said.

“I’ve talked to all the players on our team and I think most of them plan on going (to the meeting). I’ve talked to several former players and they’ve talked to their families. … We plan on having a pretty big crowd there.”

In his 13 years at the helm, Bassett, a physics teacher at the high school, has collected more than 300 victories, two state championships in 2004 and 2006, five state final four appearances, eight Section 3 titles and 12 straight Frontier League titles.

The Spartans haven’t lost to a Frontier League opponent since 2008.

Roy Stevens said that the team’s three seniors have a combined 27 years of experience playing for Bassett, dating back to summer camps and youth leagues.

“It’s an unfortunate turn of events because it really is something special that we have here,” he said.

“To see their season come apart like that, after investing that kind of time, I mean you’re talking about kids who are 16, 17, 18 years old, That’s half of their life. So to go up in smoke like that, it’s not fair. If they were going to do something with coach, they need to move swiftly. … We need to know.”

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