Judge rules Isler can coach rest of season

Calling allegations against Clovis High School’s boys’ basketball coach J.D. Isler “unsubstantiated assumptions,” a federal judge has reinstated him as coach for the remainder of the year — including post-season play.

In a decision letter issued Friday night, Federal Judge Martha Vasquez said she believed allowing Isler’s suspension and termination to continue could cause irreparable harm to Isler and cause undue hardship and damage to the team.

Isler filed suit against the New Mexico Activities Association and Clovis Municipal Schools after he was suspended for the year by the NMAA on Dec. 16, then terminated from coaching by the schools.

Vasquez also found that Isler has a likelihood of success with his suit, further justifying the injunction, stating, “Money simply cannot compensate the plaintiff for the loss of a career that he is clearly passionate about and to which he has devoted the past 23 years of his life and the loss of his reputation.”

Isler coached in Friday night’s game at Hobbs after the decision came out just minutes shy of the start of the game, according to Warren Frost, Isler’s attorney.

The Wildcats lost the game 78-69 and are 13-10 this season.

“The NMAA seems to have the impression that they’re God and it doesn’t matter if they have rules or different things, if they want to impose a penalty on someone (they think) they can do it without any rules. It’s ridiculous,” Frost said.

“We think judge Vasquez has totally vindicated Coach Isler and his coaching techniques and his reputation… (The decision) demonstrates that he’s a great coach, he cares about his kids and he follows the rules.”

The actions taken against him were based on allegations he violated NMAA rules regarding recruiting players, when he met with high school senior Lathan Lieb prior to Lieb moving to Clovis.

Vasquez referred to two hearings held in her court, one Jan. 27, the other Tuesday, in which the NMAA and Clovis schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm acknowledged in their testimony they had no proof or evidence Isler recruited Lieb to Clovis’ basketball program.

She noted the NMAA testified it suspended him based on the assumption of wrongdoing and “multiple levels of hearsay,” and, “a number of things that appear to this Court to constitute innocent conduct, but which (NMAA Executive Director Gary Tripp) views as suspicious.”

And, “Dr. Seidenwurm, herself, testified that she did not conduct her own independent investigation regarding Mr. Isler’s conduct, but instead relied on the NMAA’s investigation.”

Seidenwurm declined comment Friday night, saying she had not heard from the school’s attorney, confirming a decision had been reached.

Spokesman Robert Zayas said Friday night the NMAA is still reviewing the court’s decision and evaluating its legal options.

Zayas emphasized that while it was premature to say if the NMAA would continue its efforts to suspend Isler, “This is only a preliminary injunction and we look forward to defending our membership rule.”