Wenatchee Bighorn Coach Resigns Over Paychecks, Player Cuts
Changes with the Wenatchee Bighorns professional basketball team are happening at the coaching and player level.
Coach Don Sims says he's calling it quits over an issue with payroll and player reductions.
"So, we had the trip to California, which was March 31 through April 2. The players, as well as myself, were supposed to get paid on the 1st and the 15th," Smith said. "Well, the 1st fell on a Saturday and we're in California and there was no payment to the players or myself. And some of the players you know, they were counting on that money."
Smith says everyone ended up with paychecks on Tuesday (4/4) and everything seemed to be fine until the day before the next pay day when Smith received a call from Owner/Chief Operating Officer Chase Larsen that he and Chief Marketing Officer Sterling Fournier plan to step away from the team and that Chief Executive Officer Anthony Williams would be handling payments moving forward.
"So the next day was the 15th, supposed to get paid again. And there was no payment. So I called Anthony," Sims said. "He said, yeah, I'll have the money, bring it to you guys at the radio function."
Sims claims Williams continued to assure him that he would have the money, but no payment came until a bowling event where Sims says he observed the players getting paid.
"He paid them for the past week, and he says, coach, I don't have enough to pay you. He said I'll pay you tomorrow at the game." Sims added.
After the game, Sims says he was paid $400 of the $750 that was owed, but that Williams wouldn't have the rest until the banks open the next day.
"I called around noon, and he didn't respond. Then he sent an email out to me that everybody's moving out of the hotel and moving to the house. We're reducing our roster to eight people. You can choose the eight people that you want to keep." Sims said.
Sims says multiple attempts to reach Williams about the missing payment and the player reduction decision went unanswered.
Sims decided to resign and told Newsradio 560 KPQ that he believes money issues within the organization may have led or contributed to the resignations of Larsen and Fournier.
Williams, on the other hand, tells KPQ that coach Sims wanted to see payment prior to when the players get paid on the 1st and 15th.
"And the problem was, we sent Don a document to be removed from the bank account, not in a negative way, but just because of our budget. We were just taking control of our budget." Williams said. "And then on the 15th, we were moving our bank. There was a lot of stuff you could not pull out of the bank due to the changes for DocuSign and all that other stuff."
As a result of the bank move, Williams adds that some of the money could not be withdrawn for Sims and that Sims turned impatient, wanting to be paid.
"And so that became a discrepancy in between that issue there," Williams said. "I think it was just because of the budget constraints because no one really puts the team over a few dollars."
Williams says both he and Sims had differences on how to utilize the budget and manage the roster on road trips.
"We felt, in our organizations, that you should take eight to nine people, one coach. There would be five (motel) rooms versus the six to seven rooms, but at three additional days or two different vehicles that you would need because you had increased people on travel, which would indicatively take our travel budget up 75% per travel trip."
And while Sims believes communication could have been handled differently to encourage more effective interaction, Williams says many discussions on how to minimize impacts had taken place since day one.
"With the many conversations that we had on the budget, he just showed that he wasn't interested in doing it the way we wanted to do it. And it wasn't just me. It was other ownership, people in our ownership group that had conversations with him about the same thing about the budget, reducing his spending." Sims said.
Moving forward, Stacy Everhart, whose been with the Wenatchee Bighorn organization since its inception, takes over for Sims as head coach.
Sims is entering his 17th season as head coach of the Seattle Mountaineers basketball organization. He's also the team president. He says he'll continue recruiting and scheduling for the upcoming Mountaineers season this fall.
2023 Arbor Day in the Wenatchee Valley