RED LODGE — The girls volleyball coach for Red Lodge High was suspended two weeks ago after an altercation with one of his players during a game. He resigned last week.
On Sept. 8, the Rams were playing longtime rivals the Huntley Project Red Devils, the team that beat Red Lodge for the state championship last year.
The game was tense and during a huddle at a timeout with the Red Lodge girls, coach Dan Roller said he let his emotions get the better of him.
Witnesses described seeing Roller push one of his team captains.
"There was physical contact," said Red Lodge School District Superintendent Mark Brajcich.
The girl remained standing; she was not shoved to the ground, he said.
Roller's action resulted in a suspension the following Monday, Brajcich said.
Roller said it wasn't so much a push as it was a clumsy attempt to get his captain to turn around and face him during the huddle. Still, he said, he was in the wrong.
"I'm not gonna make excuses," he said. "I take full responsibility."
The game wasn't going the way he or the team wanted, he said. The girls on the court weren't responding to the directions he was giving and when they came off the court for the huddle during timeout, he wanted to make sure each of the players was looking him in the eye.
His captain wasn't looking and so "I laid my hands on her" to get her attention, he said.
"It's no secret that I'm a pretty intense coach," he said. "And I admit it, I was very, very irritated at the time."
He was given a yellow card at the game for the incident and afterward, he and his captain talked about what happened in the huddle.
Roller isn't an employee of the school district. He has a job in town and started coaching earlier in the decade when his daughter was on the team.
When it appeared he had lost the support of district administration during his suspension, he saw resignation as his only option. It's the second time he has resigned the position.
He first walked away about seven years ago, he said, after a disagreement with the administration.
He wishes the school well but regrets that the volleyball team was left without a head coach in the middle of the season.
"I feel bad for the girls," he said. "They're the ones getting hurt."
Brajcich said it was the best outcome for a difficult situation.
"The issue is behind us," he said.
In the meantime, the district is processing a separate formal complaint filed against the girls basketball coach, Cathy McGregor, saying she is verbally abusive to her players.
"We're right in the middle of investigating that," said Brajcich, who wasn't sure how long it would take.