Forfeit over firing: William Paterson Basketball Team
Published: November 25, 2015
Forfeit over firing: William Paterson Basketball Team, Three days after respected men’s basketball coach Jose Rebimbas announced he’s being pushed out after two decades and nearly 400 wins at William Paterson University, his players showed him the ultimate sign of respect.
They refused to play a game.
A video on Instagram showed the Pioneers walking off the floor in protest — and leaving their warmup shirts in a pile at the foul line — shortly before tipoff of Tuesday night’s New Jersey Athletic Conference home game against Ramapo. The video was taken down late Tuesday night.
William Paterson, a perennial contender for the NJAC title, came into the contest with a 3-1 record. The result is listed as a forfeit loss on the Pioneers’ website.
The protest, which comes on the heels of the threatened football strike that toppled the University of Missouri’s leadership, is sure to intensify pressure on William Paterson and the NJAC to resolve the dispute.
“Students have a right to express their opinion. Our men’s basketball team chose to do so by forfeiting the game against Ramapo College,” William Paterson spokeswoman Heather Brocious said in a statement. “We are proud of our long tradition of athletic success at William Paterson University. We don’t discuss matters regarding employees.”
Since Division III players are not on scholarship, William Paterson’s players theoretically could forfeit the entire season without penalty. The school elevated Brian Chapman, a Rebimbas assistant, to acting head coach.
NJAC commissioner Terry Small said Wednesday morning that he spoke with William Paterson director of athletics Sabrina Grant, and that there would be follow-up discussion with her about what comes next.
“That was a personal discussion, so I don’t want to get into it,” he said of the details.
“It’s been an interesting day,” Small added. “This is kind of a new one for me.”
Asked about the prospect of William Paterson’s players boycotting the entire season, Small said, “I don’t think anyone wants that.”
On Saturday night Rebimbas — a member of Seton Hall’s 1989 Final Four team — dropped his bombshell announcement on his Facebook page.
“It is with great sadness and extreme frustration that after today I will not be coaching the basketball team at William Paterson University,” Rebimbas wrote. “WP has been my home and family for more than 20 years and yet the University has taken action to remove me from the service I love. People I have trusted and served with have defied logic and are pursing my termination because of a misunderstanding over a facility rental fee for a camp that I run.”
He added, “These actions come despite the University hearing officer determining that termination was not warranted. The University has unfairly and illegally taken my right to coach and mentor the student-athletes I love. I am prepared to fight the actions of William Paterson University and restore my good name and that of the program.”
In 20 seasons at William Paterson, Rebimbas furnished a record of 384-168, guided the Pioneers to six New Jersey Athletic Conference titles and nine NCAA Tournament berths. They made the NCAA final in 2001, the semifinals in 1999 and the quarterfinals in 2006.
William Paterson is coming off a 21-8 record and an appearance in the second round of the NCAAs.
A ubiquitous presence on the Garden State recruiting trail, Rebimbas famously discovered future D-III Player of the Year Horace Jenkins during a summer pickup game in Newark.
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