College coach sacked

2013-03-13 00:00

MARITZBURG College has fired its legendary hockey and cricket coach.

Social networking sites were abuzz with the news yesterday that the school’s veteran coach, Mike Bechet, had been relieved of his coaching duties.

This occurred on Monday last week, two days after the school celebrated its 150th anniversary.

The issue apparently relates to remarks that Bechet made about a parent, although this could not be officially confirmed last night.

Bechet declined to comment.

In response to a query, acting headmaster Keith Guise Brown would only say that Bechet was asked to “stand down from his sports coaching responsibilities”.

This was related to an incident that occurred earlier this year on the side of the cricket field.

Guise Brown declined to elaborate and would only say that it was “serious enough to request Mr Bechet to stand down from his sports coaching responsibilities”.

It was therefore in the school’s interests that Bechet had “time out”.

However, the ex-coach would remain a paid, fulltime member of staff as well as one of four house masters.

The appointment of teachers as coaching staff was at the headmaster’s sole discretion and not “a decision made by school governing body or that of the Education Department”.

However, College’s school governing body had supported the step against Bechet, Guise Brown said.

He was confident that the two staff members who would coach College’s first hockey team had “both the passion and expertise to make a success of the season and that the players will not in any way be disadvantaged”.

“Despite the numerous rumours that are circulating at the moment through the social media … I have no intention, in respect of the process, for both the school and for Mr Bechet, to resolve the issue in public.

“These are matters that have, and will, continue to be discussed behind closed doors,” he said.

Bechet, considered a legend by many a College old boy, has produced 15 international hockey players, two South African cricketers in Jonty Rhodes and David Miller, and former England cricket captain Kevin Pietersen.

Darryn Gallagher, former international hockey player and current coach of the South African Men’s Under 21 team, said Bechet’s suspension was a “disgrace”.

“He’s put the school on the map. College has been the No. 1-ranked hockey side in the country for 15 of the last 20 years, and that’s been mainly due to him.

“A guy who has given so much service to the school should not be treated in this way.”

Dolphins bowler Calvin Savage said Bechet was “an old-school coach who does come down hard on the boys”.

KZN Inland Cricket captain Kyle Nipper said he was aware of the incident but didn’t know any details.

“For me personally, it was a good thing to play cricket and hockey under him.”

But Bechet also has his detractors, as can be seen by some postings on a Facebook page.

Darryl Cronje commented that he should have been fired a “long time ago”.

“From what I have personally witnessed, a disgrace to the school …” he said.

Alan Hall said: “Is this the same guy who stood on the side line shouting negative comments every game? Good riddance.”

Education Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said he was not aware of the matter.

“Maybe the report is still en route to us. When these things happen, the schools tend to report them. We hope that by the close of business tomorrow we will have the report,” said Mahlambi.

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