Jason Lynch's firing as boys' water polo and swimming coach at Newport Harbor High has surprised both members of the Sailors aquatics community and coaches on campus.
Newport Harbor senior Andrew Duhoux said he quit the swim team Thursday after meeting with Principal Michael Vossen. Duhoux, who was the team captain, said Lynch's indefinite removal – announced by Vossen April 4 – and his subsequent firing – announced Friday – "have really torn our team apart."
"It's about half and half on who wants him back and who doesn't," said Duhoux, a Daily Pilot Dream Team selection in boys' water polo last fall who plans to walk on at UC San Diego. "It's a really uncomfortable time right now. I have nothing against [interim swim coach] Clay [Jorth]; I actually quit the swim team because of the way the situation has been handled.
"I'm very upset that [Lynch] is gone, but I'm also upset with how this has been handled. It's hurting the players, in the end. This isn't helping us at all."
Duhoux has been promoting on Facebook an online petition to bring Lynch back as coach. As of Tuesday night, the petition had nearly 200 virtual signatures. Many of the signatures were by alumni of the program.
Vossen said he had meetings with parents and players Friday, the day he announced that Lynch was fired from the positions. Vossen said a change was necessary but did not release the reason why the 11-year Sailors head coach had been fired, calling it a personnel issue. Lynch remains a science teacher on campus, and according to multiple sources he is continuing to coach his high school players in club through the Newport Water Polo Foundation.
Sailors Coach Dan Glenn said he talked to Lynch after the indefinite suspension on April 4, and that Lynch expressed to Glenn that he didn't know why it had happened.
"I don't understand it," said Glenn, in his 25th year as boys' and girls' volleyball coach at the school. "I just feel bad for Jason. It's very disappointing what happened. It's disturbing. I don't think it was dealt with professionally.
"I don't know why Evan [Chalmers] was fired as baseball coach and I don't know why Eric [Tweit] was fired as athletic director. I don't think I need to know why, but I think they should know. I think Jason should know. Maybe he does. I don't know."
Tweit was fired as the Sailors' athletic director in June 2009, the same time that Chalmers was fired as baseball coach. Vossen said at the time that the firings were his decision but didn't go into reasons why, again saying it was a personnel mater.
Tweit said Tuesday that he and other on-campus coaches "have heard absolutely nothing" regarding the reason for Lynch's dismissal.
"Nothing was ever told to us," said Tweit, who remains the girls' cross country and track coach at the school. "You've got as much information as I've got. I've been through this a couple of times before and I think on-campus coaches, I'd say at least 90% of on-campus coaches, were disappointed in this.
"I look at Jason as a very close friend. I think he's a great coach. You hate to see anybody who puts that much effort in lose their job."
Vossen did not respond to cell phone messages left Tuesday. Lynch responded to an email saying any questions regarding the situation should be addressed to the Newport Harbor administration.
Lynch, 46, recently moved to Newport Beach. He led the Sailors to the 2002 CIF Southern Section Division I title in swimming and the 2007 Division I title in water polo, and they were Division I water polo finalists in 2005 and 2009. He was also suspended for two weeks in the fall after it was discovered the Sailors used an academically ineligible player in that 2009 season, and the team was forced to forfeit all but one of its games from that year and its Sunset League title.
"He just moved into the area," Glenn said. "His daughter is getting ready to start school at Harbor. We're dealing with someone's career here. I just think someone who works this hard deserves to know why he was fired … Jason is a good friend. I respect how hard he works."
Tweit said there is a feeling of uncertainty among coaches at the school.
"I think the thought out there might be, who's next?" Tweit said. "Who else could it happen to? Having no information, a lot of people are guessing and there's rumors out there. People don't know. I think that makes it even worse."
Duhoux said Jorth's younger brother, Davey Jorth, is now swim team captain. The Sailors are on spring break and have their next meet, the Battle of the Bay against rival Corona del Mar, at the Newport Harbor pool on April 21.