Board declines to rehire Diamond

Mindy Carls
Eight speakers asked the Orion school board to reinstate Dan Diamond as the varsity wrestling coach on Wednesday, July 15. The last of the eight was Kurt Hessler, whose three sons wrestled for Orion. Hessler wore a shirt that said "I Stand with Dan."

The Orion school board voted 5-2 not to reinstate Dan Diamond as the varsity wrestling coach on Wednesday, July 15.

Voting to appoint Diamond as the head coach for 2020-21 were Julie Abbott and Brandon Cooper. Voting against the rehiring were Karl Kane, Aaron Kayser, Christi Monson, Peter Nedved and Kim Nightingale. Cooper, Kane and Kayser were present by livestream.

About three dozen of Diamond’s supporters were lined up to enter Orion Middle School 75 minutes before the meeting. During the meeting, 50 people filled the socially-distanced seats reserved for the public in the commons. Another 50 were seated in the gym. About 50 waited outside the main doors.

The meeting was livestreamed, and at the peak 141 connections were made to the broadcast.

Diamond’s supporters presented the board with a petition containing the names of about 2,050 persons asking for his reinstatement.

Eight speakers supported Diamond.

They were Bob Mitton, former Orion coach; Thorian Twyner, former wrestler; Mitch Lee, who read a letter from his son, Logan Lee, former wrestler; Ethan Meisenburg, former wrestler; D’Carla Meisenburg, mother of two wrestlers; Bill Breeden, former Aledo High School coach; Kurt Hessler, father of three wrestlers; and Jeff Garrett, Sherrard High School coach.

Board members never said why they voted against him in June, or on Wednesday night. Diamond’s supporters addressed three issues:

• In the 2017-18 season, Diamond failed to certify the wrestlers for the proper weight classes for the postseason. Nine boys had to wrestle up a weight.

• Wrestle-offs this past season between a challenger and a starter. As explained to parents before the season, the challenger had to defeat the starter twice to take the spot.

• At the state tournament in February, an Orion boy wrestled for fifth place. After the match, Diamond, other coaches and the wrestlers returned to the condo they had been using. While the boys gathered up their things, Diamond consumed two beers. He considered his duties as the coach were over.

At the end of his speech, Hessler addressed Diamond directly.

“Look around here, look over here,” Hessler said, indicating the commons and the gym. “Know what’s going on outside. You’ve already won.”

After the speakers finished, the board went into executive session in the teachers’ workroom. An hour later, they returned to the commons. Without discussion, they voted on the motion to appoint Diamond as the coach.

After the motion failed, audience members shouted, “That’s ridiculous,” “You should be ashamed of yourselves” and “You’d better look at other coaches.”

One person yelled at Monson, “You didn’t listen to anybody. You were on the phone the whole time.”

Nightingale left her seat and went into the audience to confront Diamond.

As the crowd slowly left the commons, Nightingale said, “Anyone of you who want to run for the board, go ahead.”

Many in the crowd carried signs supporting Diamond, and some of them left their posters on the floor in front of the board.