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Beamer will not rehire girls basketball coach Heather Sugg
Heather Sugg won't be on the sidelines next season when the Todd Beamer High School girls basketball team takes the court.
The popular coach was told earlier this week by the school's athletic director, Jerry Peterson, that she will not be rehired because the program has decided to go in a different direction. Sugg had been the Titans' head varsity coach for the past four years and was the head junior varsity coach for the previous two seasons. Like several coaches at Beamer, she is not a school district employee.
The news came out of nowhere, according to Sugg, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in early 2010. The 38-year-old has still received no explanation from school or district officials as to why her contract was not renewed.
"I feel like I got slapped in the face and shoved under the bus," Sugg said Friday. "I'm heartbroken. I've cried all week. Maybe there's another door that will open, but right now I'm just trying to comprehend it and take it all in. I love coaching."
According to Sugg, there was no communication with Peterson or any other Federal Way administrators before she was let go. Sugg said she had not heard about anything she was doing wrong within the basketball program.
Sugg did say there are rumors floating around that some parents of players on the Beamer junior varsity team had sent letters to the school board regarding the program. But neither Peterson nor anybody else have acknowledged that the letters exist or have shown them to Sugg. Peterson has not yet returned a call by The Mirror for comment. He told the Seattle Times: "Todd Beamer High School appreciates everything she has done for the girls basketball program."
"They never gave me a chance to fix things if there was something wrong," said Sugg, who is a stay-at-home mom and mother of four. "They would not give me a reason why. If it was my win-loss record, then tell me. I never even got a chance to fix what's wrong and that's what I can't wrap my brain around."
Peterson sent Sugg a text on the morning of March 5, asking if she could meet with him.
"I just assumed we would be talking about summer stuff and getting things on the calendar," she said. "When I sat down, he couldn't look at me."
That's when Peterson told Sugg that Beamer would not re-hire her to be the Titans' girls basketball coach.
"Obviously, I lost it," Sugg said. "I was very upset and asked him why. What did I do wrong? I just kept asking."
Sugg has since sent emails to both Randy Kaczor, the principal at Todd Beamer, and Federal Way Superintendent Rob Neu, but hasn't gotten a response from either, she said.
Sugg was hired by Peterson to be the head coach before the 2008-09 season, after she spent two years as the JV coach at Beamer. The Titans finished 3-16 during Sugg's first season and were 2-17 the following year, which included her being diagnosed with a brain tumor midway through the year.
However, Beamer responded with the program's best season ever last year by finishing 13-10 and advancing into the West Central District Tournament for the first time. The Titans finished this season with an 8-12 overall record with an extremely young roster.
"It takes time to build a program," she said. "It doesn't happen overnight. I feel that I've done things right. I made sure things were in order."
After every season, coaches are evaluated regarding every aspect of their program. And, according to Sugg, everything on her 2011-12 coaching evaluation came back positive.
"All I want to know is why," she said. "If I'm a bad coach, just tell me. I feel bad for the girls. I think I've been a pretty good role model for those girls. I think they learned a lot when I got sick. They learned that you don't give up fighting, just like on the basketball court. They never gave up when they were losing and left everything on the court."
In terms of her health, Sugg said the brain tumor didn't affect her coaching one bit since she took a leave of absence for the final four games of 2009-10. She was back on the Beamer bench at the start of last season and led the Titans to the West Central District for the first time. In fact, she said that coaching the Beamer basketball team helped take her mind off the cancer treatment.
"It's nice to have that outlet. I could focus on them and what we are going to do."
Sugg had an MRI scan last week and the tumor in her brain "is good," she said. "It's just sitting there and it hasn't moved or grown. It's good. There is no issue there. If I would have even thought that my health would endanger these girls, I would have stepped down. I would never put anybody at risk."