The Sacred Heart Academy (Conn.) girls basketball team had head coach Jason Kirck back on the bench when it took the court on Saturday against Amity Regional (Conn.), an occasion that wasn’t necessarily as simplistic as it sounds. Kirck and the team became part of national headlines this past week after the Sharks beat Lyman Hall (Conn.) on Monday 92-4.
The 88-point defeat caused a flurry of negative attention, resulting in the school handing down a one-game suspension to its coach.
Although it was pointed out that Kirck did pull all Sacred Heart’s starters in the fourth quarter, such an eye-opening final score raised valid questions about sportsmanship, and how to manage a mismatched blowout in a manner that doesn’t cause any embarrassment—for either side.
(Connecticut does not have a mercy rule.)
Sacred Heart’s president Sister Sheila O’Neill released a statement after the jarring outcome.
Sacred Heart Academy values the lessons taught and cultivated through athletic participation including ethical and responsible behavior, leadership and strength of character and respect for one’s opponents. Last night’s girls’ basketball game vs. Lyman Hall High School does not align with our values or philosophies.
Kirck served his one-game suspension during Thursday’s matchup against crosstown Hamden, which the Sharks won 42-39 after a missed 3-pointer late by the Green Dragons.
Hamden misses a 3 at the buzzer and No. 3 Sacred Heart escapes 42-39 win #ctgb pic.twitter.com/4a00kJs61a
— Scott Ericson (@EricsonSports) January 7, 2022
Deservedly so, the team was praised for its resilience after the undesirable news storm, while the school made it clear the suspension or Monday’s game would not be addressed until Kirk’s return. (In the meantime, the story would grab more national attention, even snagging headlines in the New York Times.)
And then came the embattled coach’s return on Saturday — along with the anticipated reflection.
“I am deeply regretful for my coaching decisions Monday night against Lyman Hall,” said Kirck, 47, the school’s third-year coach who has two daughters on the team and watched its 42-39 victory over Hamden from home Thursday night. “I sincerely apologize to the Lyman Hall players, coaches and parents for how the game was played. I have learned from these coaching mistakes and already made changes in our system to prevent any future errors in sportsmanship from the SHA basketball program.”
Whether “that’s that” remains to be seen, of course. Saturday’s game ended with Sacred Heart topping Amity 54-36, which moved the Sharks to 5-0 on the early season— too early to tell if the aftermath from Monday’s game will make it feel like a never-ending one.