‘What’s done is done’: former interim Sac State basketball coach calls out athletic director for mishandling of his departure as head coach

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Jordan Latimore

[FILE PHOTO] Interim head coach Brandon Laird during practice Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in The Nest at Sacramento State. Laird’s contract expired on March 31 as Sac State has finalized a deal with David Patrick to become their next head coach.

Jordan Latimore

Editor’s Note: After reaching out for comment from Mark Orr, Sac State athletics declined to comment until a further point in time.

Out at a local park Saturday with his family, former Sac State men’s basketball coach Brandon Laird was pushing his son on the swing when he got the messages – his phone would not stop buzzing. 

The word had gotten out; reports were flying in that the Sac State men’s basketball team had found their next head coach in former Oklahoma assistant coach David Patrick. In a moment, Laird felt like he was left in the dark with nothing but questions, and it seemed the folks he trusted most had no answers.

“I started seeing stuff on social media and I started getting text messages from my players and I’m like, guys, I haven’t heard anything,” Laird said. “At that point [I was] saying all right, fellas, it looks like the journey’s over.”

RELATED: REPORT: Sac State men’s basketball team hiring former Oklahoma assistant coach as next head coach

Laird’s run as head coach for this basketball team has come to its end, and he has come to terms with that. 

However, Laird was left very frustrated and disgruntled with the ‘lack of professionalism’ on the part of the Hornet Athletics department in their handling of his departure.

In an email sent to the State Hornet with the subject line ‘The Sac State Way’, Laird thanked the Sac State community and his supporters throughout the past season. But, Laird then went on to note that he took issue with the lack of communication or transparency throughout the entire hiring process. 

Following the report from Jeff Goodman of Stadium that announced Patrick finalizing a deal to take the coaching position, Laird stated that he had not received any update from Sac State administration on what was actually occurring.

Subsequently, last Friday, Laird and his staff were sent an email by Tasheena Bettencourt, an athletics personnel assistant, to turn in their keys and other employee belongings, just a day before the report from Jeff Goodman about Patrick finalizing a deal with Sac State was tweeted out. 

Though this was a formality, given that Laird and his staff’s contracts had expired on March 31, Laird said that he felt disrespected by the lack of communication from Mark Orr and others within athletics due to the fact that he was essentially shadow-dismissed from his role without any real communication from Orr or anyone.

“After 11 years of service to the community and our University, the very least I would expect in this situation is a phone call and update from our Athletic Director that a decision was being finalized,” Laird said. 

After having running dialogue throughout the season all the way until its conclusion in Boise, Idaho in the Big Sky tournament, Laird couldn’t get any transparent communication from school officials.

In a phone call to The State Hornet, Laird also cleared any confusion or misinterpretation of how serious he was about taking the job. In an earlier report from The  State Hornet, Orr indicated he was unsure if Laird aimed to remain head coach. Laird is adamant that he made his intentions and desires to come back and potentially reprise the head coaching position to Orr.

“That’s BS man, straight BS,” Laird said in a phone call regarding Orr supposedly being unsure of Laird’s feelings on the job. “There’s been this narrative all along and this insinuation and this story all along that maybe I’m not interested in the job, I wanted this job.” 

Laird emphasized that he takes no issue with the administration’s decision to hire someone else to take the job.

“I do respect the decision and believe that David Patrick is an accomplished professional who will do a good job leading the program,” Laird said. 

What Laird did take issue with was the manner in which everything involving he and his staff’s departure and the communication process was being handled.

Laird was interviewed by Orr the week of March 28 for the vacant head coaching position. Between then and the late hours of April 3, days after initial reports of the new coach hire had come out, Orr had given Laird no communication or contact.

“Mark [Orr] made zero effort to communicate with me,” Laird said.

When asked about potentially getting any form of closure or any more dialogue from Orr, Laird made it clear he has nothing else left to say to Sac State’s athletic director.

“What’s done is done,” Laird said. “I don’t think there’s a need for us to communicate any further at this point. In all honesty, a face-face conversation with a handshake would reflect great professionalism from a university & department that loves to promote the ‘Hornet Family’ slogan.” 

Sam Kirby, a former assistant coach for the Hornets, attended the men’s final four in New Orleans, where Jeff Goodman was also in attendance. According to Laird, at this tournament, Kirby found out from Goodman himself that David Patrick had been picked for the job, and that he was likely not coming back. 

“[Kirby] had to spend his whole weekend answering questions about it from every other coach/everywhere he went,” Laird said. “He didn’t hear anything from Mark until [Monday] morning on his way home; that’s not a good experience for him to endure.”

[FILE PHOTO] Sacramento State men’s basketball interim head coach Brandon Laird speaks to his assistant coaches Sam Kirby (right) and Nate Smith (middle) in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss at home in The Nest versus Southern Utah University Saturday, Feb.12, 2022. Laird was replaced by former Oklahoma assistant David Patrick to be the next head coach of the men’s basketball team.
(Dylan McNeill)

This ordeal seemed to especially be convoluted simply because the report from Goodman came out just two days after their contract expired, which can only imply that the inside of athletic administration were aware of the job status well before Laird’s contract officially ran up. 

“It would’ve been nice to know where we stood so we could start a job search,” Laird said. “We all have families.”

On the heels of this news, former long-time head coach of the Sac State men’s basketball team Brian Katz sounded off regarding how the Hornet athletics department and particularly Athletic Director Mark Orr, handled the treatment of Laird during the coaching season and after the reports of the new hire.

In a separate email sent to the State Hornet directed to “Hornet Alumni, Supporters and Community Members,” and containing the subject line “professionalism,” Katz opened by saying “I would love to tell you I am surprised by the treatment of Brandon Laird and his staff in recent days, but unfortunately, I am not.”

Katz also emphasized in the email that his frustrations have nothing to do with the hiring of David Patrick, but the mistreatment of coach Laird and his staff throughout this process.

“Make no mistake, this is not about the hiring of David Patrick, this is about the very bare minimum that we would all hope for in the workplace:  PROFESSIONALISM,” said Katz. “The handling of Brandon Laird and his staff does not remotely begin to rise to the minimum level of human decency.”

What it comes down to it, Laird wanted one thing, transparency – something as small as that in return for the work he has done with this program for over a decade

“It would’ve been very simple for them to pick up the phone and call me and tell me that they were going in a different direction, at the end of the day, none of that happened.”