Eight members of the UC Davis men’s basketball team signed a petition requesting the removal of Gary Stewart as head coach.
Ryan Howley, Ryan Silva, Ryan Sypkens, Jelani Floyd, Adam Malik, Jacob Ranger, DeAndre Medlock and Julian Welch each signed the letter addressed to Athletics Director Greg Warzecka on Apr. 12, as found through an investigation.
“We are formally requesting that you relieve Gary Stewart and his staff of all coaching duties, effective immediately,” the letter stated.
When asked about the validity of the letter, Stewart said multiple players told him it was “a good April Fool’s joke gone bad.”
Sources with knowledge of the situation, however, confirmed the validity of the letter and its contents. The way Stewart treats his players, division among teammates, and an inability to develop talent, were among the reasons why the letter was written, according to sources.
An anonymous former player, who left the team before the letter was written, said he quit for these reasons, claiming that Stewart deceived him and others during his time at UC Davis.
“My entire decision [for leaving] had to do with my relationship with Stewart,” the former player said. “It was consistent, non-stop mind games and they take a toll.”
Recently, the same ex-player wrote a letter of his own to Warzecka, asking him to reconsider Stewart’s position in the program.
“I’ve watched eager and excited teenagers come to a beautiful university with high hopes and dreams,” the former player wrote, “only to leave bitter and with a bad taste in their mouths.”
UC Davis is coming off its best Division I season, where the team went 14-18 and advanced to the Big West Conference semifinals.
In his seven-year tenure as head coach, Stewart has an overall record of 78-128 (.379) despite producing multiple All-Big West performers, which led the anonymous former player to say that Stewart was just “a very bad coach to top it all off.”
“I have not seen the letter or read it – I’m just aware of it,” Stewart said. “I have players in this program who are 100 percent committed to what we’re doing. I haven’t spent any energy on [the letter].”
Sources close to the situation have said that division among the team is a bigger concern than wins and losses at this point.
“That’s one of the reasons we lose,” a source said.
“We have all this turmoil, and we still aren’t winning any games,” said another.
Another former player, who was not a member of the 2009-2010 team, said that Stewart was a hard person to get to know and understand.
“I don’t think the tactics he used with me and others were the right ones,” the former player said. “He put his favorites first which hurt camaraderie.”
Warzecka said he had heard of a petition that athletes had signed, but had not received it personally. He continued to say that Stewart was under an evaluation – something that is done for each coach annually, regardless of whether a team wins a national title or finishes in last place.
Warzecka later said that while the review process wasn’t finished, he sees no reason why Stewart wouldn’t remain the coach of the men’s basketball team for the 2010-2011 season.
“It’s a review process that takes some time,” Warzecka said. “I’m continuing to work with Gary and the student athletes. It’s going well as expected. At this point, [Stewart] is our head coach and he will be returning in the future.”
Sources close to the situation, however, have said that the review has already been finalized, and that Stewart will in fact be returning.
Warzecka doesn’t believe that the sentiments expressed in the letter speak for everyone.
“I’ve talked to a number of graduating seniors that have had wonderful careers here,” Warzecka said.
In Stewart’s six years prior to the start of the 2009-2010 season, 18 different players have quit or left the team due to undisclosed reasons.
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