A Governor’s High School Basketball Dreams Are Blocked. And He Is Crying Foul.

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As his authorities was battered by Covid-19, Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia applied to manager a boys’ squad successful his spare time. When the schoolhouse committee rejected him, helium threatened to haul the members earlier a judge.

Jim Justice talking with members of the Greenbrier East girls’ hoops  squad  during a timeout successful  2016, soon  earlier  helium  was inaugurated arsenic  governor.
Credit...Steve Helber/Associated Press

Sept. 22, 2021Updated 1:43 p.m. ET

LEWISBURG, W.Va. — The politician was livid.

“Other than GOD supra and my family, I spot my duties arsenic Governor supra each else,” helium thundered successful a connection sent retired connected Tuesday evening. “All I bash is work, and I emotion my work, and I emotion the radical of West Virginia, particularly the kids.”

But determination were some, helium went on, who had precocious committed a “vile action,” 1 that was “manifestly arbitrary and capricious,” adjacent forbidden by law.

His antagonists were 3 retirees who beryllium connected the schoolhouse committee successful Greenbrier County, 110 miles southeast of the authorities capital. In August, they had voted not to prosecute Gov. Jim Justice to manager the boys’ varsity hoops squad astatine Greenbrier East High School.

“Does the hatred of these Board members hurt?” the politician wrote. “Of course, it does.”

This blast of dudgeon implicit his authorization to manager the boys’ hoops squad successful his spare clip — helium already coaches the girls’ squad — was par for the people successful Mr. Justice’s tenure arsenic politician of West Virginia. A ember mining tycoon and the state’s richest person, Mr. Justice, whose 2 presumption successful bureau person been richly marbled with conflicts of interest, has mostly bulldozed past assorted rules and obligations. He has been hounded by backstage companies, national agencies and region governments for hundreds of millions successful unpaid bills, and helium was sued, successfully, for preferring to walk his nights astatine his location successful Greenbrier alternatively than successful the authorities capital, arsenic the authorities constitution mandates.

But helium remains unabashed, and astir voters, judging from the 33-point borderline of his re-election successful 2020, look unbothered.


Credit...Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images, via Getty Images

People whitethorn understandably inquire wherefore helium would privation to manager the Spartans portion his authorities is struggling with no shortage of serious ills. Most urgently, West Virginia is successful the mediate of 1 of the worst outbreaks of Covid-19 successful the country, with a grounds fig of infected radical successful hospitals and a vaccination complaint that, contempt a pro-vaccine campaign featuring Mr. Justice’s pet, Babydog, lags each different state. To this question, Mr. Justice has a straightforward answer. He insists helium would beryllium bully astatine it.

For 2 decades, Mr. Justice, 70, has coached the girls’ varsity squad astatine Greenbrier East, winning a authorities title successful 2012. For 7 years earlier becoming governor, helium coached the boys’ team, too. As helium elaborate successful an authoritative grievance that helium filed with the authorities nationalist employees board, Mr. Justice led the teams to much wins than immoderate manager successful schoolhouse history.

For many, however, the contented is not whether Mr. Justice, a Democrat turned Republican successful office, would beryllium bully astatine the boys’ coaching job, but whether it is thing helium should truly beryllium focusing connected close now.

“I person nary animosity toward the politician astatine all,” said Richard Parker, the newest schoolhouse committee member, earlier helium was told to notation immoderate questions to a lawyer. “I conscionable don’t spot however helium tin beryllium astatine some the girls’ games and boys’ games and inactive bash his occupation arsenic governor.”

Mr. Justice’s ties successful agrarian Greenbrier County are galore and deep. In 2009, helium bought the Greenbrier resort, a historic, 710-room luxury retreat that had fallen into bankruptcy. He restored it to its extravagant glory, earning the undying gratitude of residents and making him the county’s largest employer.

The second-largest leader successful the region is the committee of education. There is immoderate overlap.

The superintendent, for instance, is besides the manager of amusement for the Greenbrier resort. A subordinate of the schoolhouse committee is joined to a lensman who works there. At a caller committee meeting, a retired lawyer stood up to explicit enactment for the board’s coaching decision, yet adjacent helium acknowledged having led tours astatine the Greenbrier for respective years.

Still, Mr. Justice has been progressive with Greenbrier East hoops for overmuch longer than helium has owned the resort. Though his tenure has not been without controversy, helium has won plentifulness and is simply a big-spending booster, paying to person parquet floors installed successful the gymnasium similar successful an NBA arena, with his signature painted connected the boards for posterity.

Earlier this year, Bimbo Coles, a postgraduate of Greenbrier East who played professionally, stepped down arsenic manager of the boys’ varsity team, a presumption helium had held since Mr. Justice left. Administrators astatine the precocious schoolhouse interviewed six candidates, each younker hoops coaches oregon adjunct coaches. The superintendent past informed the committee that they had unanimously settled connected lone one: Jim Justice.


Credit...Steve Helber/Associated Press

“I cognize I tin bash the job,” Mr. Justice told West Virginia MetroNews successful August, insisting it would not detract from his show arsenic governor. “At my age, I’ll person to person large adjunct coaches,” helium said. “To beryllium perfectly honest, they’ll person to bash the work. I’ll manager the game. Nevertheless, I emotion the kids.”

In mid-August, the main of the precocious schoolhouse released a connection to the quality media explaining why, aft interviewing each the candidates, “Coach James Justice was the wide choice.” The missive highlighted his acquisition and success, and said that radical who had played for him had “expressed their amazement of a antheral who works tirelessly, loves West Virginia, and loves each children arsenic good arsenic embraces each players, nary substance their hoops talent.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Justice’s lawyer sent a missive to the superintendent informing of “legal action,” if the committee were to contradict him the presumption contempt qualifications that “tower supra the different applicants’.”

But astatine 2 schoolhouse committee meetings, respective parents and residents arsenic good arsenic a subordinate for the boys’ team, whose begetter was a campaigner for the coaching job, spoke retired against Mr. Justice’s appointment, saying they wanted idiosyncratic who could springiness the squad afloat attention. Some questioned however the politician could give his clip to 2 teams arsenic good arsenic a authorities successful the throes of Covid-19, and expressed displeasure astatine the evident answer: adjunct coaches.

On Aug. 23, the committee voted, 3-2, to cull Mr. Justice.

“Anybody would consciousness immoderate level of emptiness,” the politician said ruefully of the board’s decision, astatine the extremity of a quality league about the state’s Covid-19 crisis. He had coached much than 2 twelve seasons astatine the school, helium said, achieving “success beyond belief.” “There’s nary question whatsoever,” helium went on, “this is the worst of the worst from the standpoint of the kids.”

At the adjacent committee meeting, successful mid-September, a radical of radical showed up to praise Mr. Justice, speechmaking letters of enactment for the politician and expressing bafflement arsenic to wherefore the committee had not chosen him. That aforesaid day, Mr. Justice’s lawyer filed the ceremonial grievance.

The grievance, which listed Mr. Justice’s occupation rubric arsenic “Girls Basketball Coach,” argued that “failing to prime a campaigner who is by acold the astir qualified — whether retired of idiosyncratic animus, governmental opposition, oregon immoderate different crushed — is arbitrary and capricious.” The politician was hauling the region schoolhouse committee earlier a judge.

An antithetic week passed. The politician announced winners successful the “Do it for Babydog” vaccination lottery, the fig of known coronavirus infections successful the authorities reached caller highs and the schoolhouse committee members conferred with their counsel. The lawyer who had sued astir the governor’s unconstitutional residency successful Greenbrier announced helium was readying to writer again. To some, it was some astonishing and predictable that things had gone this far.

“He likes to get what helium wants and helium doesn’t similar to perceive no,” said Brentz Thompson, the retired lawyer who spoke astatine the schoolhouse committee meeting. “We can’t fig immoderate different crushed wherefore helium wants it.”

Then connected Tuesday night, Mr. Justice sent retired his letter. “I garbage to walk clip warring HATE,” it read. He was withdrawing his name, contempt his emotion for the assemblage and the “hundreds of calls from radical successful full disbelief” astatine the board’s decision. The committee should prime different coach, helium said.

The missive past concluded with thing similar a poem.

“My kids triumph successful rule values!

“My kids triumph successful the academics of the classroom!

“My kids triumph successful beingness aft basketball!

“And my East teams triumph connected the floor! (496-173 74.1%).”

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