Students unpacked ponchos as rain pitter-pattered across the pavement, community members stapled signs together and children lined the road as dozens of citizens protested the Rainier School District’s decision to not renew Jeremy Landram’s coaching contract on Monday, June 14.
Rainier High School boys basketball players learned Thursday, June 10, that Landram, who many said built the town’s basketball program from the ground up, would not return for another season.
“We are here because our coach was let go without reason and without a plan for our summer or even next season,” said Logan Bowers, an incoming senior and a basketball player. “They suddenly let him go at the end of the season and we want him back.”
Bowers said he and his fellow protestors hope to put the lean on the district to reconsider its decision in regard to Landram.
“I’m hoping to gain some traction, because obviously it seems like they went without the opinion of the general town,” Bowers said. “It seems like it was the few versus a lot.”
Rainier School District Superintendent Bryon Bahr declined to comment on the situation.
Brandi Howell, a parent of a younger kid that works with Landram, said the high school team, consisting of 15 or so boys, found out along with parents on Thursday, a revelation she said came as a blindside to the community.
“This was after they already had their entire summer planned,” Howell said. “I mean basketball tournaments every single weekend, along with going to a tournament in Las Vegas.”
She said they already missed out on a tournament that was scheduled for last weekend.
The reason Landram’s contract wasn’t renewed is anyone’s guess, but some parents were told one specific piece of information.
“We weren’t told ‘why,’ besides the fact that he was kind of hard on (referees),” Howell said. “Other than that, they just kind of went, ‘oh, you don’t have a coach anymore, sorry.’”
Beth Riglesworth, a community member, said she was disappointed the school district did nothing to prepare the boys for the news. Riglesworth said she felt the decision was made hastily because they didn’t think anyone would fight back.
“Well guess what?” Riglesworth said, gesturing to the demonstration located outside of the district office. “We can organize.”
In the three years he coached in Rainier, Landram reportedly had younger kids in the community play with the high schoolers, conducted open gym twice a week, brought college athletes to help coach the boys during the summer, and also held youth activities and workshops in the community.
Baron Rearden, another of Landram’s athletes, said Landram stepped into the lives of his athletes in tangible ways.
“He, like, took me in,” Rearden said. “I lived with him for a couple months. … He’s done everything for me. He cares for a lot more than just basketball. He makes sure we are alright in our personal lives. He’s not just a basketball coach.”
Ultimately, Bowers said that even though Landram had a reputation as a tough coach, it was all for the benefit of the athletes and said Landram had a heart for the program.
“He wanted the best for our team,” Bowers said. “He may have been a hard-ass sometimes, but he had great intentions. He loved the entire team as his family.”