A group of eight players on the Floyd County (Ky.) High School boys basketball team decided to quit because of their Board of Education’s handling of grievances related to their head coach. More specifically, they felt the punishment handed down to coach Kevin Spurlock wasn’t sufficient after an investigation found him guilty of “conduct unbecoming of a coach.”
The eight players — including two sets of brothers — raised their concerns about the coach after he allegedly verbally abused them multiple times. He is also accused of threatening a fan of an opposing team, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. While all eight players were individually offered the opportunity to return to the team, they instead decided to quit rather than continue to play for a coach they feel has belittled them and had a deleterious impact on their self-esteem.
While Spurlock insisted “If some things they said had been proven, I would have been fired,” other allegations went uncontested. That includes the larger details of an incident during a scrimmage in Ashland where he threatened to fight an opposing fan. Meanwhile, the parents of some of the now-former players offered other anecdotes speaking to Spurlock’s inflammatory character.
Missy Jones, the mother of the quitting player Brady Jones, offered the following to the Herald-Leader as proof of Spurlock’s contentious behavior:
“He said in the locker room afterward that ‘You’re letting your teammate get raped and molested out there and you’re not even doing anything about it,’” Missy Jones said. “He’s egging these kids on to fight on the court.’
Multiple players and parents said Spurlock’s demeanor during their summer exhibitions was similar. During one summer game, Missy Jones said, Spurlock was upset with a missed call by a female official — “She didn’t see something that did happen,” Missy said — with Floyd Central trailing by four points with four minutes left. He continued to berate the official for two minutes following the missed call before choosing to forfeit the contest.
“He talked to her like a dog,” Missy Jones said. “He got so mad he forfeited the game and took the kids out of the possibility of winning a championship game. We drove all the way to Lexington, spent all this money, for him to decide on a whim to up and leave.”
The mother of another player claimed he was mocked for his injury, which Spurlock accused of being a sign of personal weakness rather than a genuine medical condition.
“At halftime of the varsity game while my child was still sitting because he couldn’t dress,” Jo Hall, Hayden Hall’s mother, told the Herald-Leader. “(Spurlock) threw himself on the floor, grabbed his knee and said, ‘Oh I’m Hayden, I’ve hurt my knee,’ making fun of my child. He’s supposed to be an adult? He’s supposed to be an educator and setting examples for these children? No.”
In fact, the mother of two of the players who walked away from the team, Jamie Salisbury, is an employee of the school but had to be placed on medical leave because of anxiety derived from the coach’s behavior and its impact on her sons. She told the Lexington newspaper she would continue to support her children regardless of personal cost, apparently referring to any political ramifications that could come from her employers.
“There’s been no Bobby Knight (actions) or any of those things,” Spurlock told the Herald-Leader. “Nobody is getting their nose bit off or nobody getting headbutted or choked. It’s not even remotely close to that. The superintendent said he felt comfortable with three (games) if I felt comfortable with three, and I felt totally comfortable with it. I think based on our policies, it was perfectly fine with me. We’re gonna move on and get past it. We’ll see how that works. It won’t be easy, but in the long run, it’ll be okay. I’m not real worried about it. It’s just another obstacle you gotta get over.”
That’s true for Spurlock now that he has retained his position. It’s not true for the eight players who decided they couldn’t continue because of his influence.