Dallastown High School fired its successful girls' basketball coach Monday, prompting seven assistant girls' basketball coaches to threaten to resign.
Dallastown informed Mary Manlove on Monday she would not be allowed to return for an eighth season because of her "coaching style," just one year after her team won the YAIAA Division I title and two years after her team won the YAIAA tournament. The YAIAA awarded Dallastown girls' basketball with the Division I sportsmanship award this season and in 2011.
The firing took place weeks after a group of parents met with the administration.
Manlove, who was one of just five females coaching basketball in the YAIAA, struggled to put into words if she would continue coaching elsewhere.
"I can't speak to that," Manlove said Tuesday night. "I spent eight years with incredible people, building what I hoped would last 20 or 30 years. In a few short weeks, it was all ripped apart."
Dallastown High School Principal Kevin Duckworth did not respond to voicemails left on his office phone Wednesday. Dallastown athletic director Tory Harvey did not respond to a message left for him Tuesday.
In a phone call on Feb. 19 with Harvey, Manlove was told that some parents and players had complained of abuse, she said. Harvey told Manlove parents and players accused her of verbal, mental and physical abuse against players, Manlove said.
It's an allegation Manlove strongly denied.
Manlove noted the only complaints she heard during the season came from parents asking for more playing time for their daughters, complaints that she addressed and ultimately led to more playing time for the players in question.
Manlove said that, during a March 4 morning meeting with Troy Fisher, Dallastown's director of employee relations and administrative services, she was told that investigations by the high school administration, Children and Youth Services and York Regional Police did not result in any charges against Manlove.
Manlove said she was fired Monday in a meeting with Duckworth, Harvey, Fisher and Keith Downs, the assistant high school principal. The paperwork she received, dated March 16, listed "coaching style" as the reason for her dismissal, according to Manlove.
"There was never even one formal complaint filed in my seven years," Manlove said.
Manlove remains a third grade teacher in the Dallastown School District and was not taken out of the classroom during the recent investigations.
"I don't understand it," said Dallastown volunteer assistant Bob Heiser, who won more than 200 games as Eastern York's girls' basketball coach before going on to serve as the Penn State York women's basketball coach. Heiser was in his first year coaching alongside Manlove.
"I saw nothing that could be questioned," Heiser said. "She did a great job of trying to stay upbeat and staying cool even when the team lost quite a few games."
The move ends weeks of uncertainty around the program, but even more uncertainty could follow her firing.
A complete overhaul of the Dallastown program could be underway since seven Dallastown girls' basketball coaches — including the seventh- and eighth-grade head coach, ninth-grade head coach and junior varsity head coach — signed a letter sent to Dallastown's administration March 4. The letter declared the coaches would not return if investigations proved the accusations unfounded and Manlove was still removed.
"As you are considering your decision, we further ask that you understand that once Coach Manlove is cleared of any wrongdoing, if she is removed as head coach, we intend to show our support for her and for the greater coaching community by resigning from our respective positions throughout the various levels of the Dallastown girls' basketball program," states a letter signed by coaches Shawn Maloney, Megan Stewart, Bob Heiser, Jeff Gettle, Bryan Harbold, Jenna Miller and Matt Smith. "We do not see any other sensible path forward if the administration allows the coaching environment to be dictated by accusations against respected coaching professionals. It is imperative that the administration understands that the dismissal of Coach Manlove would set a dangerous precedent by firmly outlining the steps required to have any coach terminated."
Dallastown's assistant coaches also sent multiple letters of support from members of the York County community to Dallastown administrators on March 4, including a letter from York Catholic head coach Kevin Bankos and youth coach and former Dallastown assistant basketball coach Jeff King. A group of about 10 current and past players and parents also sent in personal letters describing their positive experiences, Manlove said.
"She has a passion and love of the game from which players can learn a great deal," King wrote. "She puts their best interest ahead of her own ego. Her acumen for teaching detail and trying to bring players to their highest level is as patient and complete as any coach with which I have been associated."
An open letter of support was created on an online petition site, where 119 people added their names, and it was addressed to the Dallastown administration.
Manlove leaves with a career record of 114-77, with the Wildcats finishing in first or second place in the big-school Division I during four of her seven seasons. Before Manlove's arrival, Dallastown had finished second-to-last in Division I for three consecutive seasons. In a rebuilding year with eight freshmen on a roster of 17, Dallastown went 5-17. It marked the first losing season in Manlove's tenure.
A York Catholic graduate, Manlove returned to York County after working in Division I basketball. She served as the director of basketball operations under Maggie Dixon at the United States Military Academy in West Point, and in the year after Dixon's unexpected death at age 28, Manlove was promoted to Army assistant coach under Dave Magarity.
Dallastown developed several college players during Manlove's tenure. Division I basketball recruit Amari Johnson (Rhode Island) played alongside eventual York College recruits Debria Hendricks and Katie McGowan. The core of Manlove's YAIAA tournament title team secured roster spots at college, with Shae Grim (King's College), Jenna Jackson (Widener University) and Shannon Thomas (Albright College) each playing at the next level.
Coaches' open letter
March 4th, 2016
To: Dr. Ronald E. Dyer, Superintendent
Dr. Joshua A. Doll, Assistant Superintendent
Dr. Kevin C. Duckworth, DAHS Principal
Mr. Keith Downs, DAHS Assistant Principal
Mr. Torance N. Harvey, DAHS Athletic Director
700 New School Lane
Dallastown, PA 17313
This is an open letter from the Dallastown Girls Basketball coaching staff to notify the administration and athletic department of the full support we have for Coach Manlove. It is our understanding that a small group of disgruntled parents have voiced complaints regarding Coach Manlove's style and additionally have accused her of verbal, mental, and physical abuse. As a staff, we believe these accusations will not be founded. We are hopeful that you will swiftly bring closure to the matters and you will allow her to continue in her role as head varsity coach for years come.
As you are considering your decision, we further ask that you understand that once Coach Manlove is cleared of any wrongdoing, if she is removed as head coach, we intend to show our support for her and for the greater coaching community by resigning from our respective positions throughout the various levels of the Dallastown girls' basketball program. We do not see any other sensible path forward if the administration allows the coaching environment to be dictated by accusations against respected coaching professionals. It is imperative that the administration understands that the dismissal of Coach Manlove would set a dangerous precedent by firmly outlining the steps required to have any coach terminated.
We thank you in advance for your consideration and attention to this delicate matter. If you have any questions, we welcome an audience with each and every one of you.
Shawn Maloney, JV head coach
Megan Stewart, varsity assistant coach
Bob Heiser, varsity assistant coach
Jeff Gettle, head ninth-grade coach
Bryan Harbold, head seventh- and eighth-grade coach
Jenna Miller, junior high assistant coach
Matt Smith, junior high assistant coach