Dori: Was Issaquah HS basketball coach dumped for ideology?

In early December 2021, Issaquah High School’s women’s basketball team started 3-0 – two years after finishing 4th in the state tournament before the COVID shutdowns.

At the time, Doug Crandall – a West Point graduate, husband of an Issaquah kindergarten teacher, father of a University of Washington basketball player, and extended family member of other alumni of Issaquah High School Basketball – was entering his third season as head coach.

Then, without any explanation as to why, Crandall was called into a meeting with Issaquah headteachers and told he was being placed on administrative leave.

“Give us your keys, don’t contact the players and stay off campus,” Crandall says, told by headteachers. Crandall told Dori Monson Show listeners that he remained stunned and unsure as to why he wasn’t officially fired, but was removed from his position.

Now, after more than 44 days of uncertainty following Crandall’s reunion, families and basketball players in Issaquah are calling on the district to explain when — or if — their coach is returning.

Is it because the coach spoke at an Issaquah School Board meeting in the spring of 2021 about the negative social and emotional effects that COVID mandates were having on students/athletes? Some parents wonder.

Here’s what Crandall had to say to the school board:

“What we have done does not follow any science. Science definitely shows that in fact, as the NFL has said, COVID does not cross the line of scrimmage. But I let you read my mail and I know that others here have read it too. I think what pains me so much is the last thing I put on – we starved our kids to sports, to theater, to school. Our country has done it. Our state has done it. We do it as a district. Then we threw leftovers at them and now we’ve taken those leftovers out of their mouths. There is no excuse for this. You talked about core values. I appreciated that a few meetings ago. There is only one core value that all of us involved in the lives of children at this time should care about and that is selfless service to children. It’s the only thing that matters. We must serve the leaders in their lives. That’s what I’m about to do. I’m going to honk for a second. In 15 minutes, I’ll head over to Issaquah Gym and oversee the open gym. I’m not doing it for a state championship. We will not do that this year. I don’t do it for the money. I haven’t been paid to coach basketball in over a year. I don’t do it for the money anyway. I don’t do this to win games. I don’t even do it because I like basketball. I do it because I love each of these girls. I love them. And they need it now. These football players needed it and our children need to be in school. My wife came back to class as soon as she could because she loves her children. That’s why she did it. She did it because she loves her children. I replaced in third year on Monday. I never did that in my life. I replaced … on Monday and fell in love with these little faces in 15 minutes – with Nason, with Zunis, with Annie, with Xavier – they were so happy to be there. And I’m glad they’re back. But I spent the last year monitoring my own son’s mental health, his stability and did everything we could to make sure he was okay. And that’s all I care about, frankly, in my life is making sure he’s okay. …I’ll conclude by saying I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m impatient, and I’d like to see that from you too. I would like to see your hearts broken like our hearts are broken. Show your emotion, get angry and let’s get back to selfless service to our children.

Is it because Crandall is a man of Christian faith? A few community members asked.

Or is it something else? Parents and players want to know.

“In this case, we’ve been torn apart,” Crandall told Dori’s listeners of the loss he feels for his players. “I poured my heart and soul into this program because I care about children so much.”

The players told Dori they cared too. Azra, a junior who plays at Issaquah, told Dori, “We know how good Coach Crandall is. (My teammate) Courtney and I talked about it at a school board meeting.

“Coach (Crandall) was amazing,” Courtney, another college junior, told listeners of the show. “He cared so much about whether we were doing well at school and he wanted us to be happy. This is rare these days in coaches. That’s why we’re so upset.

Parents and community members sent dozens of equally supportive emails and voicemails to Dori.

From the district side, Lesha Engels, executive director of communications and digital strategy for Issaquah Schools, responded via email:

At this time, here is the information we can provide in relation to your request:

Coach Crandall is on paid administrative leave pending an ongoing internal employment investigation.

The leave is non-disciplinary in nature, and while he is on leave, coaching duties are assumed by other staff members, including coach Kathy Gibson.

The district understands this cannot resolve all program disruptions, but is pleased that Coach Gibson is available.

As this is an internal staff matter, and out of respect for this process and the privacy of those potentially involved, the District cannot comment further.

Dori, meanwhile, wonders if an ideology of the district or school board administration that conflicts with Crandall’s could be the cause of the unclosed furlough. He wonders if it’s “the ideology of fanatics in positions of power” that has become “more important than children… When that starts to happen, we have a group of leaders who have really gone astray” .

Listen to Dori’s full interviews with Coach Crandall and his players here:

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