Steve Azevedo, the Maria Carrillo High School girls' basketball coach with an impressive winning record, will not begin the season as coach of the Pumas amid allegations that he bullied and hazed players for several years.
Azevedo, 57, a longtime Sonoma County youth coach, is accused by a contingent of parents and players of degrading athletes, harassing them, using demeaning behavior and profanity and violating the California Interscholastic Federation code of conduct on role models and personal conduct, according to a letter from Gordan W. Egan, a Sacramento-based attorney.
The attorney also claimed that Azevedo has improperly used Maria Carrillo facilities as a platform for his private Gym Rats program, a youth basketball training operation.
He said he had received at least 10 complaints about Azevedo, two from students and eight from parents.
"As far as they have been able to determine, no investigation has been conducted, no action taken and his behavior remains abhorrent to the laws of California, the policies of the Santa Rosa City Schools, the California Interscholastic Federation, common decency and any standard of sports coaching," Egan wrote in the letter dated Oct. 23 and addressed to the seven Santa Rosa School Board members and school district attorney George Valenzuela.
However, Santa Rosa-based private investigator Chris Reynolds confirmed Monday that he has been hired by the school district, but would not comment on the parameters of his inquiry other than to say it involves a personnel matter.
"I am conducting an investigation on behalf of the district," he said.
Azevedo did not return calls Monday.
Several parents and others contacted Monday backed Azevedo, accusing critics of being miffed over playing time and Azevedo's aggressive style.
Those closest to the situation declined to comment Monday even as players, unsure of the team's future, headed into the gym for the first practice of the year.
One parent described the atmosphere as tense.
Matt Vogensen, the assistant coach for the past five years, was tapped by school officials on Friday to run Monday's practice, which consisted of tryouts. Vogensen declined to comment Monday and it was unclear from interviews with district officials whether Azevedo was suspended, quit or fired from his post.
Kara Myers, co-athletic director at the school, said Friday that Azevedo would not begin the season and referred questions to Mark Klick, the assistant superintendent of human resources at Santa Rosa City Schools.
"As of today, he (Azevedo) is the coach of record," Klick said Monday.
"I'm not in a position to say anything," he added.
Superintendent Sharon Liddell also would not provide specifics. "If you want his status, you are going to have to talk to him about it," she said.
"We are not trying to be difficult, but we have to honor these confidentiality" rules, Liddell said.
School Board President Frank Pugh did not return calls Monday.
Azevedo, who is not a teacher with Santa Rosa City Schools, has been a coach in the district since 2004, according to Klick. A basketball coach with his experience earns $3,806 a year, Klick said.
In the letter to district trustees, Egan wrote that the Signature Law Group in Sacramento "represents various parents and students at Maria Carrillo High School."
Reached Monday, Egan declined to elaborate on the situation. "I confirm that something is going on," the Sacramento attorney said. "It is not something I can talk about."