The Iowa Supreme Court has thrown out a lower court ruling that overturned the firing of the former Ames High boys basketball coach. The Ames school board fired head boys basketball coach Dennis Cullinan in 2004. He had been the coach for eight years.
The firing came after an incident in which Cullinan met with star player Alex Thompson in school hallway December 16th of 2003 following a game. The school board said that meeting violated an agreement with Cullinan reached earlier after several parent complaints that Cullina was verbally abusive and demeaning to players and his style was negatively impacting the basketball program.
Cullinan appealed his firing and demanded his job back with back pay. The district court and court of appeals sided with Cullinan, saying the one incident was not enough motive for the school board to fire the coach. But the Iowa Supreme Court ruling says while the board’s termination order discussed the December 16th incident at length, its order made it clear that the termination was based on Cullinan’s entire history with the district, not just the December 16 incident.
The court says the latter incident was, apparently, merely the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The high court threw out the appeals ruling and earlier decision, and sent the case back for an order "affirming the the decision of the board."