NU Men’s Basketball Coach Suspended


NU Men’s Basketball team. Photo courtesy of the Northwest University Athletics Facebook page.


By Riley Sine

Editor’s Note: The Talon strives to provide factual reporting but understands that some language may have negative influences on its readers. For this reason, the phrase “racial epithet” is used in place of an offensive word referenced below.

John Van Dyke, Northwest University men’s basketball head coach and assistant athletic director, has been suspended with pay for the upcoming basketball season, according to several sources within the athletic department and an email from the NU president’s office.

According to Tre Benton, a senior on the basketball team, Van Dyke used a racial epithet in a team meeting before the alumni game a few weeks ago.

“Everyone was shocked and surprised about the incident and we did not know how to handle it at first,” he said. “As a team we were able to come together to find a solution on how to manage this situation best.”

According to another athlete with knowledge of the situation who did not wish to be named, Van Dyke has used the same epithet in the past in discussions with the team, but this was the first occurrence to be reported to the athletic department.

According to two sources who did not want to be named, but who have knowledge of the incident, Van Dyke used the term while describing music lyrics he wanted athletes to avoid. One source said he felt remorse about what he had said, when confronted about it later.

Assistant coach Jeff Drinkwine will serve as the interim head coach, and women’s head basketball coach Ken Crawford has been named head of basketball operations. Drinkwine brings extensive coaching experience to the job. He was head coach of NU’s Cascade Conference rival Evergreen State College, and also served on the coaching staffs of Boise State, St. Martin’s University, and Pacific Lutheran over the course of his career.

“Coach Drinkwine is a great coach and the right person to fill this position,” Benton said, adding that Drinkwine has already started working with the team.

NU President Joseph Castleberry announced that Van Dyke was suspended in an email to faculty and staff on Wednesday night.

“This change was not expected and was only taken with serious deliberation,” Castleberry said in the email. “It is borne out of our desire to make sure that our student athletes have the type of experience that we all expect them to have at Northwest University.

“Coach Van Dyke remains an employee of Northwest, and we will be in discussion with him about resuming coaching activities next season. We appreciate John’s service to NU for the past 18 years and want to give him a fair opportunity to return to his coaching role,” he said.

Van Dyke and athletic director Gary McIntosh declined to comment.

This story continues to develop, and The Talon will provide updates as more information becomes available.

One Comment

on “NU Men’s Basketball Coach Suspended
One Comment on “NU Men’s Basketball Coach Suspended
  1. Riley:

    Here is a piece (maybe even a MAJOR piece) of your story that you are not aware of.

    For the past 17 years I have served of-and on as a chaplain for the Men’s basketball program at Northwest. I have gone on dozens of road trips with the team and counseled and mentored players, ministered at team meetings and even served in a disciplinary role on several occasions.

    A few years ago I was on a trip with the team when I heard one of our African American players refer to another player as his (he used the same racial epithet now being discussed). Later that day I heard all three of the African American players using that word, joking and calling each other that name.

    Although I was angry and offended, I waited until I had the chance to talk to Coach Van Dyke before saying anything to the players.

    After speaking with the coach, he allowed me the opportunity to sit down with those three players and share my feelings and concerns. At first (since I am white) they couldn’t understand why I would ever be offended.

    But when I explained to them the background of the word, its history and the absolutely disgusting nature of its use in any context, they began to listen. Then I made it plain to them how no one could ever claim to represent Jesus Christ and sincerely use that word. When I finished sharing with them, they responded in a humble and respectful way.

    It turned into what we later called “a teaching moment” and no one on the team was insulted or lost their sense of dignity. Over the years, I am sure that Coach Van Dyke felt the need to remind his players (all of them) that “that” word had no place on his team.

    During his tenure at Northwest I am sure that Coach Van Dyke (like all of us) has said things that were meant to be taken differently than they were heard.

    Maybe that is why Corinthians reminds us that “love thinks no evil.” We are told to believe the best about those around us – especially those who share our love for Christ – since that is what God has chosen to do for us.

    I have know John Van Dyke for almost 18 years. He knows that I have spent years studying Civil Rights and that I have and will do everything I can to fight against racial prejudice and injustice.

    So (since I probably know John as well as anyone on your campus does) I know with absolute certainty that your coach is NOT racist, or a man who would purposely demean or say anything to intentionally offend someone. No matter who they were.

    Yes, the word he used was wrong. But if you look at the message he was trying to convey to his team, he erred NOT because his heart was filled with evil pride. He erred because he was repeating a word some on his own team had chosen to use in casual ignorance years before.

    Here is what we should do. Take a deep breath and pause. Then be thankful that we serve a God who constantly reminds us that even though we are his children, he still believes in us – because His love is NOT blind. It sees more – not less. But because His love sees more, He is willing to see less. Less of our human failure and less of our sinful pride.

    Maybe it would be a good thing if we treated Coach Van Dyke the same way God treats us. Looking past our faults and believing the best of us, even when we’ve done or said things… we really do regret.

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