He’s a role model in my book

When I was on the basketball team as a freshman at Butte Central, I didn’t see a whole lot of playing time.

One reason was that I wasn’t very good. I fancied myself a pretty decent shooter, but ball handling, defense and rebounding weren’t exactly my cup of tea.

Another reason, I always suspected, was that every time coach Don Peoples Jr. looked down the bench for a sub I was laughing like crazy at my buddy Derek Hendrickson. Coach Peoples preferred players who always had their “game face” on during the day of the game, and I could never keep a straight one with Derek nearby.

Whether it was his running commentary on the end of the bench or him turning around to talk to me in Mr. Brophy’s Montana History class, Derek always had me laughing. He had all of us laughing. He still does.

Today, Derek isn’t laughing, and neither am I. Right now my friend is heartbroken.

He’s heartbroken because of an unfortunate turn of events on Saturday night during the championship game of the Southwestern A Divisional basketball tournament at the Maroon Activities Center.

Derek was the scoreboard operator who found himself getting kicked out of the MAC because he lost his head when confronted by a highly-unprofessional assistant coach from Stevensville.

It happened about a time when just about everybody in the building lost his or her head. There’s nothing quite like teenagers playing basketball to bring out the irrational side in all of us.

After the game, one Butte Central fan yelled at the Stevensville team to put the referee in the team picture. I’m sure she wishes she had that moment back today.

A woman cheering for Dillon in Saturday’s third-place game yelled at me as I approached my seat in the middle of a timeout. “Hey, bub, you can’t stand there,” she said when there was still 45 seconds left on the timeout clock. Though I was tempted to stay standing, I took my seat long before the players took the court.

A guy from Hamilton was ready to start smashing the heads of anybody associated with the tournament because his wife fell in the snowy parking lot.

Yes, by Saturday night of a high school tournament, tempers were definitely short — even when this one was probably the best-run tournament I’ve ever seen.

It came to a boil late in the championship game when the Stevensville coaches claimed the guys at the scorer’s table messed up and credited a timeout called by Butte Central to the Yellowjackets. The coaches might have been right. It’s possible Derek and the man on the book, the incomparable Bill McBride, made a mistake.

Only the Yellowjackets didn’t contend it was a mistake. An assistant for the Yellowjackets made a pretty bold accusation. The coach starred at Derek and called him an “—-ing cheater.”

“Say that to me after the game,” Derek shot back. The coach repeated his allegation, and Derek yelled back some more angry words.

Officials from the school, tournament staff and Montana High School Association told Derek he had to leave. Security escorted him out of the building, the only thing that could break his heart more than seeing his beloved Maroons lose.

When we started ButteSports.com last summer, one of the first things I did was talk Derek into contributing to the site with a blog. He’s passionate about sports and he loves the Butte Central Maroons.

It has been nearly 20 years since Derek graduated from Butte Central, but he still lives and dies with its athletes, be it football, basketball or tennis, a sport he coached at the school for the last five years.

Late Saturday night, Derek got on his blog to say that he was sorry.

“I apologize to anyone I may have offended and certainly regret bringing any bad light on the school that I love,” he wrote.

Then, on Monday morning, Derek told me he had just resigned as a tennis coach for the Maroons. He resigned from the program that he helped rebuild.

Before he took over the BC tennis team, Butte High wouldn’t consider playing the Maroons because the BC program was so down it wouldn’t be worth the time of the Bulldogs. The last two years, the Butte Central boys’ team beat the Bulldogs.

The Maroons only scored one point at the divisional tournament in his first year. BC took second at divisionals the last two years. The Maroons made those runs with a lot of players who never really picked up a racket before going out for the team, too.

Derek Ralph and Cole Noctor made a run at the State tournament. Noctor and Brad Wilson — yes, that Brad Wilson — made a State run the year before, and Wilson was using a K-Mart brand racket that had Serena Williams’ signature on one side and her sister Venus’ on the other.

Also, Colin Hollow went from going out for tennis simply to meet girls to being a State tournament player two years in a row, in singles last year and with Ed Lally the year before.

All those players had an absolute blast along the way, too. Their coach takes great pride in those accomplishments, and he certainly shared in the laughs.

During Derek’s first year as coach, the Maroons had about 10 players out for tennis. Last year, the Maroons had 33 tennis players — about a quarter of the school — because they heard how fun it was.

All of the players, by the way, called Derek “The Magic Man,” a nickname he earned dealing cards several years ago. Some player never knew his real name.

“My overall highlight was just the kids and being a part of their lives,” Derek said.

Derek was always a coach who genuinely cares about his athletes. That’s why he stepped down on Monday. He didn’t quit on the team. Rather, he quit for the team.

“I feel like I have tarnished something that meant the world to me,” he said.

When he broke the news to me, I considered putting a story on this website about it. You know, one of those short stories about the coach stepping down and the school starting a search to replace him.

I couldn’t do it, though. I wanted to give Derek time to reconsider.

Derek was going to be the assistant coach this year because of his work obligations forced him to miss meets last year.

Bernard Carey was going to be the head coach this year with the understanding that Derek would take over as head coach again next season.

Now that won’t happen, and that is just sad.

Derek, though, doesn’t blame anybody but himself. He has said nothing but positive things about the school. He doesn’t blame the men who forced him to leave the MAC.

He doesn’t even blame the assistant coach who also owes an apology — at least — for actions that are unbecoming of a leader of young men.

“I have gotten some love from the kids who don’t want me to quit and I think I will probably hit with them still,” Derek said. “A big part of this is in my mind I don’t see how I can be an ambassador for the school now.”

Derek said he cannot be a true role model for the student-athletes after what happened Saturday night.

I couldn’t disagree more with Derek, who I think is being too hard on himself.

Somebody who stands up and takes full accountability for his actions is exactly the kind of person we need guiding our young athletes. He’s the kind of guy I want coaching my children.

In my book, my pal Derek is a perfect role model.

Unless, of course, you’re sitting next to him at the end of the bench or in Montana History class.

— Sportswriter Bill Foley writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 8 comments

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  • Magic Man
    February 26, 2013, 7:01 am

    You are far too kind Foles. I will post something on my blog to expand a little bit on everything. I want to thank Butte Central for the opportunity, especially Chad Petersen who always goes above and beyond to make things work for his coaches.

    • Dana Ralph@Magic Man
      February 26, 2013, 7:32 am

      I think you truly believe this is the best for the students and school right now and I respect you more now than I ever have, BUT if you step down now, you would be doing more of a disservice to the school and kids than you think. Yes, it was not appropriate for you to have reacted that way, you acknowledge that, but remember they crucified the only perfect person. Did we not learn, “let he who is perfect cast the first stone.” As a usher and greeter of that same tourney, I have never met more ungrateful, disrespectful people in my life from around our division and they would have tested the spirit of the holiest man. You were not the only person to lose your temper that night, so don’t be so hard on yourself. My son Derek has looked up to you for the last three years of tennis and it would break his heart not to have you there this year when he attempts to reach his goal, a goal you built within him. You are a big part of why he is where he is at in that sport today and you should not let this taint that. Please reconsider your decision as you have set an example for the kids, what not to do when confronted by and absolute idiot. And just for the record, those coaches should have put the stripes in their team picture. I have never seen a coach grab, yell, stomp, then slap a ref on the butt and not suffer any technical!!! They were from the valley!!

      • Don Foley@Dana Ralph
        February 26, 2013, 11:41 am


        Nice comments about Derek and I agree, but don’t defend yelling at the coach to put the ref in the picture. Sure there were some bad calls, but I am sure BC had some go their way. All basketball fans think the calls go against them and I do agree the technical was a poor job of officiating. But to yell at the coach when they are getting a team photo taken shows no class. As a BC grad, I was embarrassed by the behavior of adult fans as I walked behind the scorers table after the game. Is this the kind of behavior we want to teach our kid? Remember when Browning fans blamed officials for BC beating them and harassed officials. They sure seamed silly didn’t they.

        • Dana Ralph@Don Foley
          February 26, 2013, 1:10 pm

          You are right Bill, and I fully agree with you. We need to take the higher to be the example for our kids and players. Yelling at others as a response is not the way to react because we go to their level of intelligence. We are better than that!

  • Carrie
    February 26, 2013, 7:18 am

    I agree with Foley, truly a hall of fame type of guy and one of those that our kids need to see. And the assistant from the other school?…..

  • Blake Hempstead
    February 26, 2013, 8:21 am

    I was on the scorers bench when that all played out. When Stevi coach Keith Chambers called that timeout he didn’t even know what he had left. There was some confusion about taking a 30 of full – it was then changed to a 60 second TO after the official consulted with the official book. That’s when the Stevi assistant went bonkers. But what I’m wondering is why didn’t they hand over their book to compare with the official log. Could have been so easy to prove. Any discrepancy could have been figured out by the officials with even the worst stat keeper’s work. Every timeout is recorded with time and quarter – 5 in total with three full’s and two 30s, and believe me, if you’re in the business of playing games on the road especially in tournament time you’re keeping track of everything just in case there’s a situation like this. But instead a rationalizing, it’s easier to finger the blame on the “home team.” It’s no secret I’m a Copperhead and have been in my fare share of questionably officiated games at the MAC, but I’m rational enough to know it wasn’t due to what many call being “homered.” Officials make just as many mistakes at Memorial Gym as they do in Butte, but until you remove yourself from the emotion of the game it will always appear the fans’ rooting interest is always getting the short end of the stick.

    This rambling, however, should never call in to question the integrity of a guy whose only job is to operate the scoreboard.

    If I was being called out like Derek was, I can guarantee He handled it better than I. Remember, Derek is an official too. If any of the three game officials were treated like that the coach would’ve been ejected in a heartbeat. It’s a bit of their fault for not stepping in to calm the situation.

    For the record, I think Chambers should’ve handled it better. But that meatball in the green sweater should be ashamed. He perpetuated a situation when a freshman manager could’ve diffused it.

    If the definition of a coach is to be a leader of young men and women, then the frail fella in the feminine getup should find another line of work.

    All I can say to Derek is he’s a better man than I. He went home that night, I probably would have spent the night in the lockup.

  • Bre
    February 26, 2013, 11:36 am

    You’re a good person with a beautiful soul. YOu’re kids and that team need you. You are exactly the kind of person that they should be looking up to. YOu’re unconditional love for your school and your programs is inspiring. People are human they make mistakes. The fact that you can see yours and have genuine regret for it shows how good of a person you are. Those kids need you.

  • bill dunmire
    February 27, 2013, 2:57 pm

    that was the best run tournament that i have ever been involved with….it was a tourney to make butte proud! hamilton< stevidillon could not even come close to putting on a tourney of that caliber….no fans were turned away…that would not have happened in any of those other gyms….as for the lady that fell it was very unfortunate< but is was a blizzard out and s*** happens. they were very rude people, i happened to be there when they accousted don peoples, a lets just say i have more respect for don now than ever, cuz if that gut would have talked to me like that, i woulda been with derek. keep your head up buddy we are proud your a maroon


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