Palmer Ridge baseball coach Steve Whiting and assistants Lamont Hicks and Dave Mills were relieved of their duties Thursday, allegedly stemming from an incident last week at a team trip in Arizona where the three broke district policy.
"There were issues in Arizona, along with some miscommunication and stuff," said Whiting, 52, who previously coached at The Classical Academy and Mesa Ridge before starting at Palmer Ridge in 2012-13.
"Ultimately, I’m paying for it, as well as two other varsity coaches. It’s a complete shock to me, and we’re trying to deal with it all."
The move came hours before Palmer Ridge was scheduled to host Vista Ridge in a league game, though inclement weather had forced that game to be postponed until Friday.
Whiting declined to comment further, but said none of the three knew about the policy and wondered why a warning or reprimand wasn’t given first.
Julie Stephen, Lewis-Palmer School District 38 spokeswoman, only confirmed that Whiting and his two colleagues were no longer employed by the district.
"I can confirm they have been terminated," Stephen said in a text message. "I cannot discuss reasons as that is a personnel matter."
At a players-only meeting Thursday afternoon, Peter Gordon, a longtime social studies teacher and coach, was named as Bears’ interim coach, according to senior pitcher and outfielder George Silvanic.
In addition, Darren Grob, the football team’s defensive coordinator, and longtime girls’ basketball coach Dennis Coates were named assistants.
"We’re definitely going to miss the old coaches, but we’re excited to have new coaches," Silvanic said. "We are down, but we can recover from this. I’m forever thankful for what they’ve done for the program. We’re just focused on continuing our success."
In three-plus seasons, Whiting’s teams went 37-32. The Bears finished second in Pikes Peak Athletic Conference play in both 2013 and 2014, reaching the state tournament in 2014. They have been ranked first in The Gazette’s Pikes Peak area Class 4A baseball rankings since the preseason and are ranked 10th in the state in 4A in this week’s Associated Press poll.
This year’s squad, which includes six juniors and two sophomores in the starting lineup, recently swept three games at the Coach Bob Invitational tournament in suburban Phoenix.
"The team was being built for this year and next year, and not being able to be part of that anymore is pretty tough to deal with right now," Whiting said.