CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has withdrawn his name from consideration as the boys basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School.
Justice made the announcement at 4:50 p.m. Tuesday in a statement released to local news media through Steve Ruby, one of the attorneys who was representing Justice in the grievance he filed with Greenbrier County Schools last week.
Justice is withdrawing the grievance, Ruby said.
“We need to move forward,” Justice said in the letter. “Pick a coach. The kids deserve that, and I wish them all the success.”
In the letter, Justice, whose other attorney, Michael Carey, threatened legal action against the school board in a letter last month, again alluded to legal action Tuesday saying, “Everyone believes unanimously that if we proceed to court, Jim Justice will be the head boys’ basketball coach.”
“Any court would deem this level of activity is manifestly arbitrary and capricious,” Justice said in the letter, referring to an “arbitrary and capricious” standard of proof grievances have to meet in the West Virginia public employees grievance process.
The governor remains the high school’s girls basketball coach.
The Greenbrier Board of Education initially delayed its vote on Superintendent Jeff Bryant’s recommendation to hire Justice during a meeting on Aug. 11. That same day, Justice gave an interview with West Virginia MetroNews in which he said that, because of his age and schedule, he would have to hire “great” assistant coaches, who would “have to do all the work.”
“I’ll coach the game,” Justice said in the interview.
None of the Greenbrier East parents, students and Greenbrier County residents who spoke against hiring Justice during board meetings mentioned his politics or criticized his coaching record. Instead, they referred to the comments he gave to MetroNews, saying they want a coach who would be present full-time, meaning coaching at practice and at ball games.
At least one parent told the board that the governor’s time and effort should be more dedicated to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The board rejected the recommendation to hire Justice in a 3-2 vote during a meeting on Aug. 23.
Justice filed a grievance with the school district last week, and a group of his Greenbrier resort employees and friends came to a board meeting on Sept. 17 to urge the members to hire him, even though the board was not set to vote on Justice’s hiring or any other recommendations for the Greenbrier East coaching job.
Justice’s supporters all said the governor has a good coaching record and cares about the students he coaches.
In his letter Tuesday, Justice referred to his coaching record, as he and his attorneys have done in previous public statements, and said the action of the Greenbrier school board to not hire him was “vile.”
“Does the hate of these board members hurt? Of course, it does,” the governor said. “When you love your school and community as I do — it really hurts.”
Justice said being governor is his first priority and that he would never be ashamed of “hard work helping kids achieve goodness.”
“Nevertheless, I am withdrawing my name from pursuing the Head Boys’ Basketball Coach position,” he wrote in the letter. “I refuse to spend time fighting HATE. My Dad said over and over to me that you should never try to teach an elephant to sing — the elephant will never be able to do it and you’ll only frustrate yourself. I don’t have time to be frustrated.”
Justice has coached the girls basketball team since 2000. He also was the Greenbrier East boys coach from 2010 until resigning in 2017, during his first year as governor.
“I will excitedly coach the girls and as always, they will succeed,” Justice said in his letter Tuesday. “Also, Dad also always said, ‘Don’t confuse effort with accomplishment.’ ”
On Aug. 17, Greenbrier East Principal Ben Routson said six people had applied for the job.
That day, Routson released a statement on behalf of the hiring committee that recommended Justice, saying the governor was the “obvious choice” for the job. Routson, Assistant Principal David Vincent and Athletic Director Jason Stewart made up the hiring committee that recommended Justice for the job.
Bryant now has to make another coaching recommendation to the Greenbrier board.
At least one person addressed potential ethical issues with Bryant recommending the governor for the job, since Bryant is the entertainment director at The Greenbrier resort, which Justice owns. Board President Jeanie Wyatt’s husband, Mike, owns Greenbrier Photography, which leases business space in The Greenbrier.
A special meeting of the school board is scheduled for Thursday, but it was unclear Tuesday if a new recommendation for the boys coaching job would be on the agenda, which does include personnel matters.
Bryant wasn’t available for comment Tuesday.