Sunday, June 28, 2009
Coaches Testify Stinson Did Nothing Wrong
((HT: Louisville Courier-Journal/Riley-Konz))
Three assistant football coaches for Pleasure Ridge Park High School say they never heard former head coach David Stinson use profanity, ridicule players for getting a drink or deny players water during the Aug. 20, 2008 practice in which a player collapsed and later died after running wind sprints, according to depositions filed Thursday.
"To my knowledge, he's never denied players water," said Adam Donnelly, the former offensive line coach, in a deposition taken this month.
Some of the coaches' statements are at odds with what players, witnesses and Stinson have previously told police.
Donnelly and coaches Steve Deacon and Jason Cook, who wore a "Support our Stinson" arm band during his deposition, defended the head coach's actions and their own during the Aug. 20 practice where 15-year-old sophomore lineman Max Gilpin ((pictured, thanks Louisville Courier-Journal file)) collapsed from heat stroke. He died three days later.
Another assistant coach who had left the practice early, Jason Hiser, also did not find fault with any of Stinson's actions that day, testifying that players were given numerous water breaks and are allowed to get water any time they need it.
In fact, neither Donnelly nor Hiser, who has been serving as the team's interim head coach since Stinson was indicted on a charge of reckless homicide in Max's death, said they were troubled by allegations that Stinson told players they would continue running until someone quit the team.
"If you have a team where some guys are maybe wondering if they want to play or not, it's kind of a way of motivation to find out who is going to stick it out with the team," Hiser said during his June 11 deposition.The coaches, all of whom are named in a civil lawsuit filed by Gilpin's parents, testified that the players were lethargic and lackadaisical during the hot August practice, which prompted coaches to abandon their scheduled full-contact drills and have the team run wind sprints.
"It's our obligation to make sure they're in shape on Friday night so they don't suffer something from a heat illness," Hiser said. "I think it was the best judgment to have them at least get in shape."
Hiser said that if players weren't properly focused, it would have been more dangerous for them to run 11 on 11 tackle drills.
Donnelly said he only heard Stinson make one statement during the time the players were running — "something to the effect that we'll run until someone quits" — and he acknowledged that he probably wouldn't have used those exact words. But then he defended Stinson.
"You're going to say things to motivate your athletes maybe to snap them into the right frame of mind to try to get them refocused," testified Donnelly, who is no longer a coach on the team.
Donnelly testified that Stinson was not angry that day, did not curse at the team and that as soon as the head coach was told that Antonio Calloway, a defensive back, had "hit the wall," Stinson ordered the senior to stop running. Antonio also collapsed at the practice and was hospitalized for two days.
And Donnelly testified that even during the sprints, he and Stinson felt most of the team still wasn't running hard — all but a couple of players "were kind of jogging through it," he said.
Cook agreed, testifying in his June 12 deposition that many of the players were "jogging" during the sprints.
Some of the testimony from the coaches contrasts with what Stinson and other witnesses told police.
For example, Stinson has acknowledged telling four players they couldn't get water after running wind sprints, though he said Gilpin was not one of them. Several players have told police they were denied water.
None of the coaches testified to hearing or seeing Stinson deny players water.
Witnesses at the practice also told Louisville Metro Police homicide detectives that Stinson called players "cowards" and "babies" for trying to leave for water without his permission. The coaches testified that they heard none of this.
Stinson, who has pleaded not guilty, has been released from teaching duties pending the outcome of his trial. Prosecutors allege that he repeatedly denied players water, despite receiving extensive training in the dangers of heat-related illnesses, and forced them to run extra wind sprints as punishment for failing to practice hard.
Before the sprints, which lasted 30 to 35 minutes, Cook said Stinson addressed the team, telling them if they wanted to quit, they should do so before the running began. But only after the running did two players quit the team, Cook testified.
Cook said that when a player did quit running, Stinson said something to the effect of, " 'We have a winner,' and the running was over."
Donnelly and Cook testified they never heard players ask for water during the sprints. Cook saw one player vomit but continue to run. Donnelly said Max was running in the middle of the pack, and he never saw him struggling.
After players had finished running, Donnelly said, he noticed two players dragging Max off the field. Max was unresponsive, his breathing shallow.
Donnelly, who was among the first to reach Max, said the teen reacted only with grunts when water was poured on him.
Donnelly said coaches iced Max down and called EMS, but Max wasn't able to drink water at that point.
Asked if he took any responsibility for Max's death, Donnelly said, "I look in the mirror every day to see if I could have done anything differently. I try to question, did I do everything right. I tried to do everything right."
"I believe I did everything right with Max," he added.
As a sidenote, the county school system has been ordered by a Louisville judge to turn over all their findings in the Gilpin ivestigation...
Shayla Reaves has the details, thanks to our friends from WAVE-TV