FIRST ON KETK: PTISD reinstates athletic director, head coach
POSTED: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 3:39pm
UPDATED: Saturday, September 21, 2013 - 11:49am
FITZHENRY: "I am happy that this has been resolved and I can get back to coaching my kids."
Longview, Texas (KETK) —
Derek Fitzhenry has been reinstated as athletic director and head coach at Pine Tree ISD.
KETK and Smoaky.com, broke the story early Tuesday morning, before official word was released by Pine Tree Independent School District officials.
David Smoak, owner of Smoaky.com, spoke with Fitzhenry right after he found out he was going to be reinstated:
"I am happy that this has been resolved and I can get back to coaching my kids," said Fitzhenry. "I want to thank everyone including my kids, coaches and my wife who have supported me during this difficult time."
He also told Smoak:
"I love these kids and the Pine Tree community and I'm excited about getting back to work. I have nothing else to say at this time, I need to focus on doing my job and taking care of the kids and helping them achieve their dreams and goals."
Before breaking the story, one source told Smoak, "I will be shocked if Coach Fitz isn't on the practice field with his team on Tuesday afternoon." While another source was quoted saying, "This was a long night, there was a lot to discuss, and I think we got it right."
The announcement comes the day after the school board and administrators met in a closed session meeting, Monday night, at 5:45 p.m., before the public forum in front of a packed house took place at 6:30 p.m.
KETK's Garrett Sanders was there and after nearly five and a half hours of deliberating publicly and privately Monday night, the Board of Trustees announced Superintendent, T.J. Farler would carry out the board's instructions concerning Fitzhenry's fate, Tuesday.
A public forum took place where a few people, including a member of the Pine Tree football team, spoke out in support of Fitzhenry. A concerned parent, Debbie Garrett, challenged the board to make the "moral" decision, insinuating she was against the coach. She claimed many people are afraid to speak out against Fitzhenry.
KETK broke the story regarding Fitzhenry being placed on paid administrative leave last week after reports surfaced claiming he allegedly pushed a student during the Pine Tree/Van football game, Friday, August 30th.
In light of Fitzhenry's suspension, Pine Tree offensive coordinator, Derrick Hennigan, served as acting head coach, Friday, September 6th, in Pine Tree's win over Center.
According to the Longview News-Journal, around 50 players and a dozen coaches showed up at Fitzhenry’s house early Saturday morning and presented him with a signed game ball from the Pirates' 64-49 victory.
Senior defensive back, Ladarius Fluellen, said defensive coordinator Barry Bowman came up with the idea to honor Fitzhenry with the game ball if the Pirates defeated Center. Bowman, a Spring Hill High School alum who won three straight state championships at Daingerfield and spent two seasons at Paris before joining the Pirates’ staff in May, was a former college teammate of Fitzhenry’s at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, Louisiana. Fitzhenry played tight end for LA Tech in the late 1980's, while Bowman was a defensive back for the Bulldogs before becoming a punter and spending one season in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.
Several Fitzhenry supporters from the athletics program were on hand at the meeting displaying signs showing they stood behind their coach.
Fitzhenry left Giddings High School after eight seasons as head coach in 2011. He put up a 72-24 record with the Buffaloes and is 5-16 at Pine Tree in two-plus seasons.
The Pirates (2-0) will take on the Kilgore Bulldogs (1-0), under Fitzhenry's reign, Friday, September 13, at 7:30 p.m., at Pirate Stadium in Longview.