Sanders' firing not shocking but raises issues - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Sanders' firing not shocking but raises issues

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Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2012 4:22 pm

Count me among the confused.

No matter how it's diced, there are few John Sanders' out there in the East Valley high school coaching cul-de-sac. A Marine at heart, his modus operandi of commitment and relentless work ethic was evident in his kids, and if they ran through the proverbial brick walls for themselves and the program, Sanders reciprocated.

He was as successful on the field - 62-7 with four state championships in five years - as anyone in the state. His kids went on to play college football, an impressive number to Division I colleges (given its size as a Division III school) and many more at lower-level schools.

He was also boorish, egotistical and, often, self-centered. He wasn't well-liked (or even tolerated) by many other coaches for his ways. He was a source of grumbling by others for running up the score. He was rarely interested in other goings-on outside or as it related to the rest of the school and its athletic department. Many other coaches at the school weren't exactly fond of him.

He was brash and honest, sometimes to a fault. And he couldn't have cared less what outsiders thought of him.

By itself, none of that attributes warranted his being fired as football coach by the school on Thursday morning, but cumulatively - plus that whole sitting out his starters for the Chaparral game that ended the regular season.

Though it would be refreshing, Saguaro administration hasn't said anything as to why they dismissed Sanders.

But whether you liked Sanders' decision to sit his guys during that national TV game or not, there's not a snowball's chance I'll buy that the choices from Oct. 30 weren't a significant factor in his fallout. His decision blurred the lines between protecting his kids from injury in (rivalry aside) a relatively insignificant game while in pursuit of a state championship (which I believe), and a disdain to the idea he could easily lose to now-former Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle even with his starting lineup playing (which, given his stubborness and ego, I also believe).

But administration knew ahead of time there was a decent chance Sanders would sit his starters. They discussed it.

This wasn't about wins and losses. If it's about his general disposition and way he goes about his business, then he shouldn't have been hired five years ago in the first place (it's not like they didn't know Sanders' personality). If it's about the Chaparral game, then the administration should answer questions about what it knew and whether it cared to press the issue with Sanders' idea of sitting players. If it's about the backlash then he could have been let go for other minor "upsettings" at any point the past few years, and if D.J. Foster, Luke Rubenzer or Christian Kirk suffered a horrible injury a week before the playoffs began, the outcry would have been Sanders' ego to beat Chaparral (two schools in different divisions where a win or loss for both schools would have negligible effect on playoff positioning) was more important than sitting his kids to keep them healthy for a championship run.

That leaves the best guess as a culmination of his personality, attitude and pressure from a combo-platter of alums and parents disgusted with the Chaparral decision.

There's good cases to be made that Sanders deserves to lie in this bed he's made, but why the administration is now appalled by Sanders' style leaves way too much to the imagination.

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