Billy McKinney, Jordan Massinger leaving St. Helens girls', boys' basketball
In what seems like an instant, St. Helens High School is without a girls' and boys' varsity basketball coach.
Billy McKinney, who completed his sixth season with the girls in 2016-17, learned from superintendent Scot Stockwell on June 21 that his contract would not be renewed.
The decision came after McKinney found himself accused of verbal abuse by six players who left the team with four games remaining in the season, but he will continue to teach special education at St. Helens High.
Massinger, who spent two years as the boys' head coach, will start a new job as a fifth-grade teacher at Chinook Elementary School in Vancouver, Wash., this fall, as he and his wife, Kaitlin, expect the birth of their first child, a girl, "any day now."
McKinney believed that 2016-17 would be a breakthrough with all-conference senior Maggie Cochran, junior Kaylee Wegner and freshman Maddie Holm's leadership, but Cochran's torn anterior cruciate ligament, Wegner's medial collateral ligament strain and Holm's concussion sent the girls' 3-1 overall start into a 3-20, 0-14 Northwest Oregon Conference tailspin of 19 losses in a row by an average of 32 points.
The immediate struggles raised criticism of McKinney's ability to develop players.
"I opened up [the St. Helens] gym on a continuous basis," said McKinney in response. "Open gyms, summer league, clinics and team camps. Those kids [who quit] put it on themselves not to show up and then to struggle fundamentally during the season ... They claimed it was me who led them to quit, but everyone always looks for an excuse so it doesn't fall heavy on their shoulders. These kids had relied so heavily on Maggie, Kaylee and Maddie that they looked lost without those three on the court."
Neither coaching job has been easy since the Lions joined Class 5A in 2006.
"People have got to understand when you inherit a program -- especially a program that hasn't had a lot of success -- like I did when taking over in 2011-12, I asked for support and commitment from the players and respect and a winning attitude to learn if we were going to be successful," McKinney said.
The girls, under McKinney, went 28-113, 8-78 with a state play-in appearance in six years, an improvement, however, on St. Helens' 12-98, 3-67 streak in its first five Class 5A seasons.
"People look at my overall record at St. Helens and they frown, but during my six years in summer league my overall record of 72-26 sums it up as I got a chance, without school in session, to run my program," McKinney said. "I was my athletic director and I was my administrator with overwhelming support from the parents who bought in and believed in me as a coach. If kids showed up with a bad attitude and didn't want to buy in, they were excused. The whole no-cut policy, in my mind, is the worst setup for failure one could ever ask for."
McKinney made special mention of Wegner and Holm as well as Kaelixte LeFave and Emme Paullus (who will be juniors this fall), Trinity Degraffenreid (who will be a senior), Irene Omboke (Class of 2017), Ashley Giesbers and Tierra Ramsay (2016), Rianne Tupper (2015), Nicole Harcourt, Brittney Bartolomucci, Kennen Hembree and Lucy Kyle-Milward (Class of 2014) and Jillian Ross, Monique Smiley, Abby Hansen and Haley Twilleager (2012) for "believing in me as their head coach, embracing the fun, successful moments we shared during practices and games."
Massinger's successor will be the third boys' coach in five years as they've gone 73-190, 38-122 with a first-round appearance in 11 Class 5A years.
"Reluctantly, I had to step down," said Massinger, who led St. Helens to 5-18, 2-12 records in 2016-17, its best since its 14-11, 8-8 play-in run in 2012-13. "It is very unfortunate because the incoming senior class is full of potential. They could have a fantastic year if they put the work in. With the new responsibilities, long commute and new job, I just couldn't make it work."
Massinger's Lions went 8-39, 3-27 in two years.
The girls' and boys' basketball openings join athletic director and principal as vacancies the district must fill.
"I believe every change is an opportunity, and I see all of our programs at the high school both academic and athletic continuing to improve," Stockwell said.