West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) has withdrawn his name for consideration of a local high school boys basketball coaching gig – but he’s hardly going quietly.
The Greenbrier County Board of Education on Monday rejected a motion to hire Justice as the boys coach at Greenbrier East High School, located in Lewisburg, W.V., about two hours southeast of Charleston, the state’s biggest city. News outlets reported the board voted 3-2 to toss a recommendation from county schools Superintendent Jeff Bryant to hire Justice.
In a letter submitted to the board Tuesday and published by the Metro News, Justice wrote, “Does the hate of these Board members hurt? Of course, it does.” In the letter, Justice said he had received “hundreds of calls from people in total disbelief and apologetic over the Board’s vile action.”
Justice, who is 70 and was easily reelected to another 4-year term in 2020, already coaches the girls basketball team. He’s had success there – a 74.1% winning percentage, as he points out in the letter, and a 2012 state championship – though his state isn’t winning the vaccine rate. In fact, with just 40.2% of residents vaccinated, West Virginia is in last place according to the The Mayo Clinic, which is tracking vaccination rates.
Multiple residents told The New York Times and Washington Post that they didn’t understand how the governor wasn’t too busy to coach not one, but two high school basketball teams given the demands of his elected office, particularly during a global pandemic that’s killed more than 660,000 Americans.
“I’m kind of offended that he doesn’t think the governor’s office deserves a full-time governor,” Brentz Thompson, a longtime Lewisburg resident, told The Washington Post.
"Anybody would feel some level of emptiness," Justice said of the decision in a video shared by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. "There's no question whatsoever that this is the worst of the worst from the standpoint of the kids."
Justice said in 26 years, he's never cut a student who tried out or had any player become academically ineligible.
This is far from the first time that Justice has been in the news for potential conflicts of interest. The state’s richest resident, Justice is a billionaire who owns coal mines, a casino and a resort that employs the superintendent who supported his application for boys basketball coach.
Justice closed his letter by writing, "I refuse to spend my time fighting HATE" and then closed with a series of cheers.
“My kids win in principle values!
“My kids win in the academics of the classroom!
“My kids win in life after basketball!
“And my East teams win on the floor! (496-173 74.1%).”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: West Virginia Gov. Justice wants to coach high school boys basketball