An Unexpected Ending: Former Kingman Academy boys basketball coach tells his side of the story
KINGMAN – Brian Devincenzi was faced with a decision that he didn’t want to make.
He could either stay true to his word or be forced to step down as the boys basketball coach at Kingman Academy. Devincenzi chose the former, but that doesn’t mean his time with the Tigers wasn’t worthwhile.
“I just want the kids to know I didn’t quit on them,” Devincenzi said last week.
The series of events that led to Devincenzi’s forced resignation began Feb. 3 during Kingman Academy’s regular-season finale against Parker.
The Tigers entered the contest undefeated in their region at 9-0 and were looking to complete the perfect season. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Late in that contest, Devincenzi pulled one of his starters from the game. He sat the Tiger next to him and asked what was going on. The situation quickly escalated from there as the player began using profanity in a heated conversation with Devincenzi.
“This is happening while I’m sitting in my spot as a varsity head basketball coach four feet from the scorer’s table in the middle of an intense game,” Devincenzi said. “I was literally in shock. In all my years in basketball, I have never seen or heard anyone act this way. I was stunned.”
At the same moment, the player’s dad, who was one of Kingman Academy’s assistant coaches, quickly grabbed his son and pulled him away.
“The situation came at a bad time, at an inopportune time,” then-Kingman Academy assistant coach Alfonso Scandrett said. “Because we wanted to try to keep the team intact and not have them focused on that particular situation.”
The Tigers would drop the game by a score of 74-72, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
As region champions, Kingman Academy earned an automatic bid to the state tournament. However, the Tigers didn’t have their next game for two weeks and a lot happened in that span of time.
Following the loss on that Friday, Devincenzi contemplated all weekend on what to do about the issue.
“You give a player in a bad incident a one-game suspension,” Devincenzi said. “A really bad situation, you step it up to two games. I wanted to send a message. So I said three games.”
The Tigers were only guaranteed, at the most, one more game and Devincenzi wanted to have the punishment carry over to the next season.
“This is meant to sting,” Devincenzi said. “This is meant to put a point out that speaks to all my team. Everybody understands.”
On a side note, Devincenzi mentioned that the player handled the situation well.
“On that Monday he went in and apologized to the team,” Devincenzi said. “He said everything was wrong and that I didn’t do anything wrong and that he accepted the punishment.”
However, the three-game suspension was called into question by school administrators according to Devincenzi. The first meeting on the issue was between Devincenzi, principal Jeff Martin and Athletic Director Michael Perrine.
“I spoke to them and Perrine voiced to me that, ‘well how did you come about your punishment?’ Devincenzi said. “So I explained to them how I walked through it.”
That conversation led to another a few days later when Devincenzi was called into Perrine’s office.
Devincenzi found out during that meeting that Kingman Academy Superintendent Susan Chan and Perrine had discussed the issue.
“I thought, “OK, that’s cool Susan is being brought up to speed,” Devincenzi said.
According to Devincenzi, Perrine then stated that he and Chan had agreed upon a lesser punishment.
“They decided it was going to be two games served this season and nothing carried over to next season,” Devincenzi said.
In a later meeting, Devincenzi sat down with Perrine and incoming Kingman Academy principal Eric Lillis to discuss the next season. Devincenzi brought up the suspension and stated that he would sit the player for two games.
“You’re telling me I can’t suspend him, that’s fine,” Devincenzi said. “(But) I won’t play him. I’m going to abide by my rule because my team needs to know my word means something.”
That decision resulted in an issue as Devincenzi said he was given the weekend to go home and think about what he wanted to do.
“I got in my truck and went out of the parking lot and I already knew what I was going to do,” Devincenzi said. “I wasn’t go to change anything. I can’t. As a coach, how do you go back on your word to your players?”
When Devincenzi returned Monday, he went to talk to Lillis and said he wasn’t going back on his word.
“Eric pulls out a paper and says, ‘I got this ready for you,” Devincenzi said. “He slides it across the desk to me. It’s my resignation paper. So I said, ‘OK.’ I handed him my keys and signed the resignation.”
Perrine declined to talk about the situation, other than offering a brief comment.
“I thank Brian for everything that he did for our program,” Perrine said. “We had a great season overall. He kind of made the decision to walk away. I wish him nothing but the best. He’s a great guy and we’re just moving in a different direction now.”
Lillis reiterated the same statement as Perrine, stating Devincenzi resigned and Kingman Academy wishes him well.
With that said, Scandrett feels the player should step forward and accept the suspension next season.
“I think that would show that he understands the reason for the penalty,” Scandrett said. “… If I was to go to the principal or the superintendent and scream at a person of authority like this young man did to Brian, I would lose my job and my livelihood.”