Isler says he will drop lawsuit against school district if given coaching contract

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo A federal judge issued a temporary injunction last week that will allow J.D. Isler to finish the rest of the season as Clovis High’s boys basketball coach. The Wildcats host the district tournament championship game Saturday.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Clovis High boys basketball coach J.D. Isler says he much prefers a basketball court to a courtroom.

Isler, who was suspended by the state’s governing body for high school athletics and later fired from his coaching position, says he will drop his lawsuit against the school superintendent and school board if he is given his job back and also granted a coaching contract for next season.

Isler, who was reinstated for the second time this season as coach by a federal court injunction Feb. 19, pitched the deal Thursday and said he believes a recent federal court finding makes it, “Pretty obvious that a lot of this stuff was ridiculous.”

“I prefer to be the basketball coach here,” Isler said, “and I’m hoping the school and the school board do the right thing. I feel like I’ve been a victim in this whole thing.”

The written proposal was delivered to the schools’ attorney Thursday.

“Coach Isler is aware that he has a claim for substantial damages against the School District arising out of his termination,” the offer letter said.

“He is more interested in being the Clovis High School Head Boys’ Basketball Coach, because of his relationship with his students and the community, than he is in seeking damages against the School District.”

Isler was suspended from coaching Dec. 16 by the New Mexico Activities Association and later terminated by the school on allegations he recruited a player to Clovis.

Isler filed a lawsuit against superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm, the school board and the NMAA on Dec. 18.

Besides restoring Isler as coach, Federal Judge Martha Vasquez’ preliminary injunction also found the case against Isler lacked merit and he had a strong likelihood of being awarded damages.

The Wildcats (13-10), who host the district championship game Saturday, have already qualified for the 16-team Class 5A state tournament. He missed four games this season while his coaching status was being determined.

“Coach Isler is not interested in the politics that are going on. He’s not interested in the discussion of whose kids are getting to play and whose aren’t,” said Warren Frost, Isler’s attorney. “All he wants to do is coach his basketball team.”

Isler is also asking for back pay to cover the period since his Dec. 16 firing and has asked for an identical contract to the one he had.

It makes the added stipulation that all future decisions concerning his status as coach be made by a new superintendent and, “that this litigation or the subject matter hereof would not factor into any decision to rehire him in the future.”

The school board is searching for a new superintendent because Seidenwurm recently announced she is leaving at the end of the school year.

School Board President Lora Harlan confirmed the offer was received but said she has not been in touch with the board or school administration and she doesn’t know, “What our position is on it.”

The Clovis school board is scheduled to meet Saturday to discuss pending litigation regarding Isler.

Seidenwurm did not return a call seeking comment.

Isler said he does not plan to make a similar offer to the NMAA and will continue to fight them and clear his name.

“I want them to clear my name and retract the fact that they accused me of undue influence and then I’m pursuing damages on top of that,” Isler said. “Because it’s really taken a toll on me and obviously our team and my reputation.”

NMAA spokesman Robert Zayas said he had not been made aware of the offer to the schools and could not comment.

Zayas said the NMAA is still evaluating its position on the case in light of the judge’s Feb. 19 decision.