Burroughs High School boys basketball team rallies for head coach after abrupt termination

Sunday, December 3, 2023
Students rally for Burroughs HS coach after abrupt termination
The beloved basketball coach was fired this week and the student athletes say they still don't know why. Plus, their parents feel he hasn't been given due process.

BURBANK, Calif. (KABC) -- Standing outside of John Burroughs High School Friday afternoon, a group of boys basketball players held signs and shared chants.

They skipped class to lead a lesson in solidarity. Their coach, Austin Pope, was fired this week and the young student-athletes say they still don't know why. Their parents feel he hasn't been given due process.

"The school has been very vague, and if anything, misleading," said Jackie Baker, who has a son on the team. "A lot of timelines don't match up."

The program was 6-0 going into Wednesday's game against Harvard-Westlake. In the locker room right after, Pope told the team he was let go.

"My name is in the mix for a lot of different things that I did not do," said Pope in a post-game locker room speech recorded by someone affiliated with the team. "So I just want to let you guys know, and look you guys here in the eyes, and say I'm very sad."

"Immediately you see everyone's faces drop, everyone bawling their eyes out," said senior captain Chase Kardosh. "All 15 players on the team crying their eyes out. It just shows the impact he has."

Pope's impact was unanimous among those outside of Burroughs High School. Teammates exchanged compliments towards Pope, who was not present, calling him kind, with the demeanor of a father figure. Even a referee was in the crowd.

"The [players] respect us as officials so myself, I wouldn't want to coincide with a school that's making decisions like this and not putting the kids first," said Charisse James, who officiates high school basketball games and whose daughter graduated from Burroughs.

At the rally, Burbank Unified School District's assistant superintendent declined ABC7's request for an on-camera interview.

In a statement issued by Burroughs High School, Principal Kenneth Knoop said he is limited as to what he can share, only calling the allegations "serious" and adding in part:

"I don't take lightly how disruptive and abrupt this transition is. The decision was arrived at after days of consideration and in conjunction with JBHS and BUSD district office teams."

Families say they're unaware of any wrongdoing and simply want answers. They also ultimately want Pope to be reinstated.

"We want him until the end of the season and then that can be up to him what he wants to do afterwards because he may not want to deal with this," said Tonya Kardosh, Chase's mother.

Pope and the NAACP have been in contact.