Basketball: Raso discusses 'corporate handshake' from Mac

Joe Raso is sticking to his guns: he does not know why he is no longer men's basketball coach at McMaster.

The coach's ouster, which has set an unofficial record for our longest comment thread (155 and counting), has hit such a critical mass that Raso was on the FAN 590's Prime Time Sports on Monday.

"I got the corporate handshake," Raso told co-hosts Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt. "Eighteen minutes for 18 years. I was stunned ... they never ever told me I was in a trouble, I never had a performance appraisal during the season. I never had any reason to worry."

Raso added: "I never got anything other than, 'we're going in a new direction.' "

McCown called that, "Gobbledygook. So, 'just because.' " The host also observed that the way Raso sounded, this wasn't over.

This has a stickiness, and apologies that the transition from CIS blogger for fun to junior hockey blogger for fun and profit has taken my attention away. Raso noted he was at a loss to comprehend how he could have a personality conflict with McMaster athletic director Jeff Giles, saying the two never talked enough to develop any kind of relationship, good or bad.

This probably will be a CIS story of the summer. Our commenters say Windsor coach Chris Oliver, a former Marauders assistant, will interview for the job. People are bound to speculate.

A couple asides: One is that the interview did point out the need to pay proper respect to teams' records in all games, not just league contests. (McCown rattled off the 193-88 record some reports attributed to Raso; the man himself pointed out he had 17 20-win seasons, including 24-9 this season.)

The other is thank you for all the comments, but please be civil and be sure you're on firm ground. One e-mail from a reader saying they were wrongly accused of doing something is enough.

(Between Dave DeAveiro and Kelly Nobes going to McGill in hoops and hockey, Fred Parker leaving Carleton men's hockey, and Raso, it seems like all hell has broken loose since I began my career and blogging transition. DeAveiro still has to a sign his contact, according to one source.)
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  1. Whether or not there were circumstances about which I know nothing that suggested a coaching change at this time, as a Mac graduate and supporter, I was personally disappointed in the past 2-3 years in the recruiting of several players who were clearly not suited, inclined, eligible, and/or academically capable of lasting more than one season, if that. In my opinion, such acts of desperation for short term gain, in order to stay competitive, weaken and cheapen the program.

  2. It's been reported that Oliver has a 5 year contract at Windsor he signed in 2008. So how does he get out of it? ..can he? I would think Windsor AD will be furious that it is even a consideration (and so will the lancer players). The recruits were there for a reason and that was Oliver.

  3. Boo-hoo, he got fired.

    Why is it many CIS programs seem to coast along under the belief coaches have jobs for life unless they screw up to such an extent (e.g., serial underachievement for a decade or more, borderline criminal behaviour, etc.) that an AD has no choice but to snap out of his catatonic state and make a move?

    In any event, a new AD feels more comfortable with his people in key positions -- look at what Drew Love is doing at McGill (and will do with Sonny Wolfe once this season's over).

  4. I would check the sources on the Oliver speculation. He is very loyal to Joe and the Mac program built by Joe. Neither Giles nor anyone else remaining associated with McMaster basketball has a CIS basketball background so it should be interesting.

  5. A Raven Maniac5/03/2010 11:01 pm

    Anon 8:40....
    If it is Giles prerogative to make a change, then so be it.
    But for god's sake, if you are going to dismiss an employee,
    particularly a long serving one, then handle the situation with
    sensitivity, class and with professionalism.
    None of that was present the day he let Raso go.
    Instead, it was sneaky, deceitful, condescending and completely dispassionate.
    It was if Raso was some itinerant labourer, instead of a respected member
    of not only the Hamilton sports community but the university
    basketball community nation wide.
    For the record, I am not one of Joe Raso's "cronies" as you so fondly describe.
    I live in Ottawa and do not know Joe Raso personally at all.
    I simply believe in fairness and integrity and in the case of this
    particular action by Mr. Giles, both were in woefully short measure.

  6. In business, it's best to remain "dispassionate". Fairness in whose eyes? Raso? No one likes to be fired and will always feel slighted but is it a real injustice or just his perception? No one knows what went down and what the AD had to base his decision on.
    I think it's quite fair that this was attempted to be done with as little fanfare and public disclosure as possible. It appears that the plan was to do it quietly and with dignity. No press conference, no lengthy public statement from the AD. It's Raso opening his mouth and his cronies crying foul that are making this a spectacle. But after all these years, would anyone expect anything less from this group? I'm not surprised at all by this reaction. I just don't give any credence to the poor little old me platform that Raso is selling. Everything happens for a reason. People like Giles to not ascend to their positions of authority without demonstrating the ability to cut through the niceties and do what needs to be done. Try to see it for what it really is and move on.

  7. Have any posters actually been fired before?

    I lost a job in late 2008 and my dismissal went down very much the way Raso claims his shit-canning went down: it was a very perfunctory affair. He is also not the first "respected member of the basketball community" to be let go when a new AD rides into town.

    Reading the many comments from Raso supporters it appears they were expecting Mac to hold a public ceremony for him, rename a building in his honour and give him two years to find another coaching job.

    Joe was likely fired in much the same way hundreds of thousands of people in Ontario have been fired since the Great Recession began (including people who held their jobs for 18 years). Get over it, Joe.

    Oh, and I held a job where I had to let people go: it's an uncomfortable situation and the less said the better -- there is absolutely NOTHING to be gained by going into a long explanation about why the person is being shown the door.

    Again, there is nothing "unfair" in the way Raso was let go; there are all too many other workers who recently suffered very similar experiences. If you want to rally around "unfair" dismissals in Steeltown, perhaps the sordid Lakeport Brewery affair is a better place to start...

  8. Amen to that.
    From what I am reading, everyone is taking it much too personal. Take a look around and see what goes on in the real world. No one likes it but understand that this happens all the time. Joe would do himself a favour if he would refrain from any further comment. It absolutely does him no good. If he would be publically gracious at a time like this, he would get more respect.

  9. For whoever criticized the recruiting, let me say this. As a former CIS assistant coach, I know there is not a team in Canada that would have turned away a talent like Terry Licorish if he walked into the basketball office and said he wanted to play. Don't blame the coach for the athlete not taking care of the academics.

  10. Ask Ryan Christie why Joe got fired, more to the story

  11. Regarding Ryan Christie, Joe cannot be taken to task on taking a chance on him. He is a local kid who obviously had a disadvantaged upbringing and has some serious issues. He was also a kid who grew playing with Joe's son and a few other Mac guys. Giving Christie a chance to play was giving the kid a chance to get his life straightened out. Too bad it did not work out for everyone concerned. If you are going to take a chance on a kid take a chance on a kid you have a history with.

  12. I think this subject has just about run its course, for the time being at least.
    Until we find out who is being hired and if Raso plans any legal action,
    there really nothing much else to add to the debate.
    But it obviously has touched a nerve with a lot of people.
    Not even the Hemmings affair in Brandon a few years ago comes
    close to the controversy of this move.
    On a national scale though, it barely rates more than a ripple.
    If this happened with a prominent NCAA coach, it would be huge news in the States.
    Alas, this is just further proof the CIS isn't a big deal here.

  13. Glad to see the CIS gets some national air-time, only when a coach is fired.....

  14. To change the subject. Why has DeAveiro not signed his contract with McGill, a month after quitting Ottawa? Is he having second thoughts about the McGill job too?

  15. Maybe he is now waiting to see what happens with the MAC job?

  16. Raso didn't take a chance with Christie, he committed political suicide. Everyone knew it. That kid was beyond help because of his sense of entitlement, largely due to the backing of Raso for years. No accountability or responsibility for his actions. Sound familiar?
    There was no disadvantaged upbringing and to spread that falsehood is unfair to his family. Christie had as good a home as the next kid. His choices caused his problems and took him to where he is today. Just like any kid. He is no victim of circumstances and I am quite certain he used Raso as much as Raso used him. The experiment didn't work out so well and Raso is paying for it. Christie got a free pass for a year of university education out of it. Do you think that irked quite a few people? I do.

    Interesting about DeAveiro. Word had it that he was ready to take the Ryerson job but his wife objected to the move. If true, that would apply to a Hamilton move as well. I suppose time will tell what happenes on that front.

  17. Please don't get too bent out of shape with DeAveiro ... McGill has not made an announcement since the paperwork still has to be done.

    In each case with DeAveiro and Kelly Nobes, their former employers let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, by saying each was going to McGill. Some would say you could just leave it at "other opportunities" and not steal anyone's thunder, but it's better to put that info in the release, says I.

  18. True enough. As we have all seen, negotiating a contract is extremely important. There is no hurry to sign until all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed.

  19. CIS basketball not be surprised if Dave DeAverio is interviewing for the Mac job. If has hasn't signed a contract...he has every right to speak with Giles. He could be the front runner even over Chris Oliver.

  20. Raso comments say alot. He is unable to accept this decision and move on. I really believe it would be better to take the gracious exit and go out with his head held high.

    It's almost like being dumped by a girlfriend and pestering for an answer why. Sometimes the real reason is not going to be of any comfort so take the line of "it's not you its me" and go on to the next girl.
    It is getting a bit crazy and really embarassing here and it would be a good idea for the supporters to just wish him well in his future endevours.

  21. Joe Raso is one of the greatest CIS coaches ever, and has proven himself repeatedly over 18 years. To throw all that away in an 18 minute meeting is a complete joke. Giles is obviously one of the most arrogant, incompetent people involved in sports today. This is the kind of decision that damages basketball in Canada in so many ways. The power of ADs must be curtailed if good coaches are going to enter the profession in Canada. To compare Joe's firing to 'being dumped by a girlfriend' is clearly the malicious comment of someone with no common sense or decency.

    Canadian coaches need a union, and they need it now. Joe should continue to speak out, hold his head high, and be proud of the amazing job he did at MAC. Despite the idiotic comments of some on here, please know Joe that the Canadian basketball community will always love and respect you. May you coach again at a high level soon, and may Giles himself soon feel what the 'corporate handshake' feels like.

  22. Thank you Mrs. R.

  23. I am not Mrs. R. I am a former CIS player. I completed numerous times against Raso's teams, and have never had any personal contact with him. Raso was a great competitor who earned every opponent's respect. Anyone with any longterm experience of CIS basketball or competition against Coach Raso will know that what I've written is true.

    Anyone with any familiarity with legal terms such as "wrongful dismissal" would know that Joe has every right to sue McMaster for wrongful dismissal that disregards his job performance. Frankly, I hope he does so, for the good of all Canadian coaches everywhere.

    Giles' treatment of Coach Raso reveals a pitiful lack of intelligence and a complete absence of professional competence. Any coach who considers signing a contract with this viper cannot have respect for himself, the coaching community, or the game of basketball.

  24. It was brought up before that when a contract expires, both parties have no obligation to renew. There was no wrongful dismissal to speak of therefore no suit would be warranted. The lesson here for CIS coaches is to ensure their contract reflects their goals. If you want to be a lifer, make them put it in writing.
    The rest of the banter here is purely personal, somewhat entertaining but essentially a non-issue.

  25. A contract renewed continuously for 18 years, with positive reviews for good job performance, and then suddenly not renewed despite the same job performance and without ANY negative performance review is a wrongful dismissal suit waiting to happen. Again, for the sake of the coaching profession in this country, let's hope that a competent lawyer takes on this case soon.

  26. Actually, Anonymous May4 7:09 p.m. is incorrect about contract law. Ontario case labour law has found in many instances that several consecutive one-year employment contracts can be treated like permanent employment after a certain number of years. Certainly it would seem that 18 years would be enough to qualify. If Raso wanted to sue, he could with a reasonable chance of success, and at least get paid the equivalent of 18 years worth of severance, if not a larger figure if he could show loss of reputation because of what is essentially a for-cause firing.

  27. Here`s my take. Jeff Giles has a history of trying a million new initiatives (in an effort to appear cutting edge and active) in the hopes that one or two will work. Throwing a lot of sh*t at a wall to see what sticks. This smacks of nothing less than remaking Mac athletics in his own image. Why have a coach who is a bigger name than the AD?

    You simply cannot argue with Joe Raso`s record. Absent some sort of inappropriate personal and professional conduct, and absent any sort of corrective efforts toward addressing some perceived deficiency (and we have no one saying anything on either front), Jeff Giles` decision is arrogant and wrong-headed. McMaster athletics will rue the day. Giles won`t. He`s too pigheaded.

  28. A lawsuit may get ugly, much more for Raso than Giles. With long accepted, albeit unspoken practices going on for years, is it worth the risk of exposure. Things are done to promote programs but on paper it can really look bad. All CIS programs are guilty of these grey areas and bringing them into a court of law would only open up a huge can of worms for the CIS. Is that was Joe wants his legacy to be? Unfortunately for Joe, Giles is clean in this. He hasn't been there long enough to be accused of much on a factual basis.

  29. What did I miss? Wasn't the official announcement that the contract was up and chosen not to be renewed. The AD wanted the program going into a different direction? It doesn't sound like a firing but letting an employment term run to the end.
    So if Joe chose not to renew, would the school be able to sue him for failing to... do what? honour his contract? wait a sec, there is no contract. Right or wrong, renewing isnt a right and by Giles not saying Joe did anything wrong, it has no basis for a wrongful dismissal.
    I'm seeing alot of touchy feely, warm and fuzzies but not much else with substance.
    His reputation isn't suffering by anything the school has said in all this. It's Joe and his supporters that are stirring the pot here. It's very unprofessional and definitely blue collar and not befitting of a fine institution such as McMaster. Maybe thats been the problem all along.

  30. Treating coaches in a criminal manner does not make Giles "clean in this"; the fact is that he has violated both contract law and common sense and both he and his superiors deserve to pay for this in court.

    Coach Raso has never been the type to be intimidated by bullies warning that things "may get ugly" for him if he uses the justice system for what it is intended for, to give justice. Not just justice for Joe, but justice for any young coach thinking about entering the profession, and justice for all the players out there who want good coaches.

    I hope there will soon be a public statement on this matter from Coach Hillis at the U of Regina, the President of the CIS Basketball Coach's Association. If that association has any value whatsoever, it has to speak up in support of Coach Raso.

  31. Wow...criminal?
    Labour law has now made it so no contracts are worth the paper they are written on then?
    News to me but in this crazy politically correct world, why would I be shocked at this.

  32. Look, it was Raso's own damn fault he got let go.
    If you want long term security then for crying out loud
    stop signing one year deals and get an ironclad long term contract.
    I'm sure Quigley would have given him one if he only asked.
    Another thing...just because you are tight with the AD, don't for a moment
    assume when that person leaves and is replaced it will be status quo.
    Get to know the new guy and if he seems at all reticent about
    talking to you, take that as a possible sign of trouble.
    In the coaching business or any other business rule #1 is look out for #1.
    Cover your ass from Day One.