Desert Vista head basketball coach Gino Crump, who was recommended for termination following an incident involving a player after a game in December, has been reinstated by the Tempe Union High School District.
“Vindication,” Crump said ahead of a scheduled meeting with parents of Desert Vista’s basketball program Wednesday night. “That was my first thought. It was a long road. They did what they thought was right and other people didn’t agree with them, that’s pretty much what it was.
“They didn’t agree with my approach on what I thought was a volatile situation.”
Crump was recommended for termination to the Tempe Union High School District governing board after an internal investigation by Desert Vista into a postgame incident after the Thunder’s overtime win over St. Mary’s on Dec. 13.
In a video posted to social media, Crump could be seen pushing one of his players back and away from the St. Mary’s student section, who had come onto the floor after the game. A restraining order against Crump was filed by the parent of the Desert Vista player after the incident. According to his attorney, Buddy Rake, who provided a copy of the court document to Ahwatukee Foothills News, the restraining order was dismissed by a judge on Dec. 31.
Crump said Rake, who is also the head basketball coach at Thunderbird High School, sent a letter to district officials, including Tempe Union Superintendent Dr. Kevin J. Mendivil, requesting an informal meeting to resolve the situation.
On Wednesday afternoon, both parties met, and Crump was reinstated.
“After careful consideration and discussion with administration at Desert Vista High School, the decision was made earlier this afternoon to reinstate Mr. Crump,” Megan Sterling, the executive director of community relations for Tempe Union, wrote in an email.
Crump received vast support from the Desert Vista community. On Sunday, Dec. 29, a petition supporting him was by Carolynn and Antone White, the parents of former Desert Vista student, Chase White, who passed away suddenly in 2016. Carson, the couple’s other son, is a freshman in the basketball program. In less than 2 days, the petition had over 1,000 signatures.
It now has more than 2,500.
“There really is no rule book in terms of breaking up a fight,” Antone told Ahwatukee Foothills News on Dec. 30. “It was a heated moment and he was trying to separate the group. I think things are taken out of context.
“It was a volatile situation and I think that is being left out.”
Desert Vista was led by Mike Smith in Crump’s absence. The Thunder went 5-1 during that span, with their only loss against JSerra Catholic from San Juan Capistrano, Calif. in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic. The Thunder are currently 13-2 and the top-ranked team in the 6A Conference according to MaxPreps’ rankings. They are No. 5 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s rankings.
Crump expects to make a full return to his team no later than Friday. He will be on the court coaching Desert Vista against Desert Ridge on Tuesday, Jan. 14, more than a month after the initial incident took place.
“It’s going to be fun to finally get back,” Crump said. “It’s going to be a magical year. It will be a storybook. We have to win now, we’ve got to win.”
Speaking with a group of parents Wednesday night after he was reinstated, Crump became emotional as he thanked them for their support.
“I just can’t thank you guys enough,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say, thank you.”