High school coach, pastor picks bad time to explode at refs

A popular and highly respected pastor and high school basketball coach in San Antonio has landed himself undesired attention for an overreaction that couldn't have come at a less appropriate time.

Last week, San Antonio Madison (Texas) High coach John Valenzuela, more commonly known as Coach Val, became enraged at officials during his team's loss to Austin Westlake (Texas) High. In the final minute of the game, with Valenzuela upset at calls going against his team, he angrily berated the officiating crew, then, after a final foul, snapped his clipboard in half and tossed it on the court.

Not only was the disruption a clear break with Valenzuela's respected and well-cultivated Christian image and message (an outbreak that comes just at the start of the Christmas season, at that), it also undermines a project he and a team of videographers are working on. A forthcoming film, which will be entitled "Building Champions with Coach Val" is being filmed using footage from Madison's 2010-11 season, meant to project the seamless connections between Valenzuela's on- and off-court life.

Mercifully for Valenzuela, the camera crew which has followed him throughout the season was absent during the game against Westlake, which will likely keep the coach's clipboard-snapping out of the film's final cut. Still, it was hard to completely overlook, particularly given the emphasis the Madison coach puts on the role Christianity plays in his life.

As well documented by San Antonio TV and radio station WOAI and elsewhere, Valenzuela and his wife have adopted six different children from crisis situations. Most notably, their son Moses was adopted after they learned he had been born in a porta-potty to a crack-addicted mother.

While Valenzuela's temper tantrum is difficult to overlook, the coach was quick to apologize to all involved (first to Westlake coach Tres Ellis) and portray the incident as one that was deeply out of character.

"I'm sick to my stomach," Valenzuela told the San Antonio Express-News. "I'm not going to justify what I did. I apologized to my players, and I didn't conduct myself in a proper way.

"I messed up, and there's no excuse for that."

There has been no comment on any potential suspensions for the coach following the flare up, though the athletic director for San Antonio's North East Independent School District didn't indicate any was forthcoming.

"He's a quality coach, and he's had an exemplary record," North East ISD athletic director Jerry Comalander told the Express-News. "He's made a mistake, and I'm sure he'll do what he can to learn from this."

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