Emotions spill over as DGF girls basketball coaches dismissed by board
DILWORTH - Tearful players surrounding a coach on a basketball court is a scene typically reserved for an end-of-season loss.
In a way, Thursday was just that when the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton school district voted 6-1 to not renew the contracts of boys basketball coach Jason Sunde and girls basketball coach Steve Molstre.
"These girls cried when it happened and as you can see the board didn't care," Molstre said. "They walked out right after it happened so of course they couldn't see them."
Molstre said he was told by D-G-F superintendent Randy Bruer it appeared his contract would not be renewed nearly 12 hours before the board meeting.
His performance came into question after he confirmed a report that an unknown parent filed a complaint against him with the district.
The complaint, Molstre said, alleged he played "mind games" and he "had already picked his team."
He said the complaint was made to a board member and it resulted in him finding out about it through a meeting.
"It was a real surprise because my evaluations from the players and (DGF activities director) Craig Anderson were all very good," Molstre said. "There were no red flags. I've never had a complaint come to me, not a call or even a red flag. Then I get blindsided that I'm in trouble."
There was also speculation that boys basketball coach Jason Sunde also would not be retained. Sunde said that an anonymous complaint was also filed against him.
Anderson said the meeting was initially suggested to review re-hiring Molstre and Sunde until he suggested the board review re-hiring all head coaches in the district that coach fall and winter sports.
Every head coach at D-G-F was at the meeting in part to support Molstre and Sunde. School board meetings used to renew annual personnel contracts are common.
The scene at the meeting, however, wasn't.
Most of the bleachers were filled with parents and citizens supporting Molstre and Sunde. Of the 37 people that spoke at the meeting, 35 of them were in support of the coaches. The people supporting the duo ranged from parents, players, coaches and even Molstre's mother-in-law who claimed, "his problem is he's too nice."
Former DGF coach Ron Tollefson questioned how Bruer, prior to the meeting, knew that Molstre wasn't going to be retained. Bruer attempted to answer before he was stopped.
Hawley girls basketball coach Bill Gottenborg perhaps summed up what many Molstre and Sunde supporters were thinking.
"I'd like to read to you a Bible verse," Gottenborg said. "...they judged him without cause."
The two people that spoke out against Molstre were Craig and Ruth Cassler. Craig Cassler said "I guess I am the villain that started all of this."
Craig Cassler said he wrote an email to Molstre voicing his concerns and after stating alleged complaints from players, he was interrupted and jeered by most of the crowd.
The meeting had to go into recess because of the outbursts.
Whoever filed a complaint against Sunde didn't speak at the meeting.
Anderson, who recommended to the board that Molstre and Sunde be retained, was the last person to address the crowd before the board made its decision.
"When I recommend to you that you hire these people it is because the philosophies I have instilled in them are being followed," Anderson said. "If not, I am going to dismiss them."
When the board motioned to not renew Molstre and Sunde's contracts, whispers could be heard throughout the middle school gym.
Then when the final decision was delivered, there were outbursts calling for the board. There were people who walked out in disgust and then there was Molstre hugging his players while Sunde walked out of the room.
"I'm a teacher and that's what I came here to do," said Sunde, who is a fourth-grade teacher. "It'll be a quiet winter and spring season and from there I'll think about what's next."
Both Molstre and Sunde have been involved in the area's basketball scene for some time.
Molstre coached the boys basketball team in the mid-1990s before stepping down to focus on his growing family.
Five years ago, he returned to coaching by taking over the girls team. He led the team to an 18-8 record in his first season and compiled a 77-54 record. Molstre led this year's team to a 12-13 record. The team also included his daughter, Kinzie, who was a sophomore guard.
Sunde took over the boys program and coached the team to a 51-54 record including a 10-14 record in the 2010-11 season.