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Arlee boys basketball coach Zanen Pitts steps down; school releases statement

Posted at 5:44 PM, Jun 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-13 21:29:56-04

ARLEE — The head coach that led the Arlee boys basketball team to four consecutive state championship games is stepping down from the program.

Zanen Pitts confirmed to MTN Sports he is leaving the team and stood by his quotes in a Missoulian article where he slammed the Arlee school administration. He cited their treatment as the reason for his decision.

Arlee superintendent James Baldwin issued a formal release through the school, saying “normally, the District would not comment on why an employee is leaving, but the false information provided by Mr. Pitts requires a response.”

Baldwin wrote that the administration had formally and informally addressed misconduct by Pitts on several occasions and that he “continued to disregard the direction of the administrators.” The release cited violations of rules in regards to benefits for student-athletes and one outburst that “reflected poorly on the Arlee School District.”

Under Pitts, the Warriors became the first Class C boys team to play in four straight state championship games, winning titles in 2017 and 2018 and finishing second in 2016 and this past March. Pitts and his team also started the Warrior Movement, the suicide awareness campaign that has gone viral and was featured nationally on NBA TV and in the New York Times.

Below is the official statement from the Arlee School District.

Re: Arlee School District response to Zanen Pitts article published on June 12, 2019, in the Missoulian

From: Superintendent James A. Baldwin

As a District, we were disappointed to see the Missoulian article which announced that Zanen Pitts would not renew his contract with the Arlee School District as the boys’ basketball coach. Mr. Pitts did not share that information with the Athletic Director or any District administrator prior to announcing it to the Missoulian, and Mr. Pitts chose to make statements about why he was choosing to leave. Normally, the District would not comment on why an employee is leaving, but the false information provided by Mr. Pitts requires a response.

Mr. Pitts chose to blame the administration for his departure, and to make derogatory comments about school staff who have attempted to hold him accountable during his tenure as a basketball coach. For several years, and through many administrators, the District has addressed Mr. Pitts’ misconduct both formally and informally, with varying degrees of success. Public school districts are required to follow federal and state rules regarding equity in high school sports, and the Montana High School Association enforces additional rules regarding benefits to student athletes. Mr. Pitts was reprimanded formally and informally for violating these rules, and he continued to disregard the direction of the administrators who were tasked with addressing his misconduct. Most recently, Mr. Pitts had a violent outburst in another school’s locker room and destroyed that school’s property. This incident reflected poorly on the Arlee School District and boys’ basketball program, and the District was obligated to reimburse the other school for the vandalism. The District charged Mr. Pitts with the cost it incurred for his violent outburst, and he expressed significant dissatisfaction with that decision.

The District is immensely proud of the student athletes who formed the Warrior Movement and for all of their work to bring attention to the mental health needs of students across the State of Montana and nationally. The District will continue to support all of its student athletes and to support their work in the Warrior Movement. We also will hold our staff accountable for following the law with regard to equity in student activities, and for conducting themselves appropriately when representing the District. Our number one focus is the welfare of our students and to encourage all students to thrive and to achieve academic and personal success.

We wish Mr. Pitts well and hope that he finds success in his future endeavors.