Men’s basketball team played four home games with empty stands after an incident against Foothill College last month
(This story has been updated to include the latest information)
The Hawks finished the season 17-11 and got a No. 13 seed in the state playoffs. Part of the reason? They lost five games at home. The Nest is usually a tough place for opponents. Last season, when the Hawks won a school record 27 games, they were 16-2 at home.
But this season, Las Positas lost two of its last four home games. Why? Partly because they featured no fans. Even the rivalry game against Chabot College, the sister school which has emerged as one of the best teams in the state, the Hawks’ home-court advantage was negated thanks to a spectator ban.
The decision was made by the Coast Conference commissioner Dale Murray on Jan. 24 after an off-court fight a few days earlier. On Jan. 20, at the Las Positas gym, a physical altercation involving Las Positas and Foothill College players occurred. It escalated to involve spectators with several bystanders getting hurt. The ensuing decision was to ban spectators from attending games. In addition, spectators had to be escorted out immediately after the completion of women’s basketball home games and events planned for the men’s games, such as a veterans’ event and cheer squad performances, were canceled.
Also, two Hawks players were suspended for their role in the altercation: freshman guard C.J. Ward and sophomore guard Jaden Phillips.
Ward was reinstated, though he’s only played in one game since the incident, making his only shot in the loss to Chabot. Ward is eligible to play in Wednesday’s first-round playoff game against Diablo Valley. Phillips, however, has not played since the Foothill game and, according to a source, is no longer on the team.
He averaged 13.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in the 20 regular season games he played. He started 15 of those games, including the last eight. Phillips led the team in three-point field goal percentage (42.2) and was second in total steals (25).
All totaled, the Hawks played five games with no fans, including the road game at Foothill College on Feb. 15. They lost three of those games. Fans are welcomed back to the Nest for what is likely the Hawks’ final home game of the season.
“We’re expecting a good crowd and live music,” Hawks coach James Giacomazzi said in an email to the school, “so it should be a fun evening.”
Players and coaches have been prohibited from discussing the incident. Giacomazzi declined to comment.
But according to multiple sources who were there, the Jan. 20 altercation took place around 9 p.m. after the conclusion of Las Positas’ 106-75 blowout of Foothill College. According to Alan Lewis, a photographer and writer for the LPC Express Newspaper, a Las Positas player came out of the locker room with intentions of engaging a Foothill player. Sources identified that player as Phillips. Assistant coach Anthony Haskett held him back while the LPC Dean of Athletics, Kevin Kramer, told spectators to leave the gym.
Shortly after, a spectator speaking to Kramer pushed the dean in the chest. Soon, more spectators were physically and verbally involved. The one security guard at the gym called for support from the only other security guard on campus. The Livermore Police Department was called and nine officers were dispatched to the gym. No arrests were made.
Another person in attendance said Kramer and Giacomazzi were struck. Sean Prather, the head of LPC campus security, confirmed an unknown female from Foothill College was punched in the eye. Prather said during the game, Foothill fans called for their players to take “retribution,” telling them to tag or grab certain Las Positas players. Prather said an officer on duty at the Jan. 20 game did not notice the spectators heckling.
There was also a confrontation at a game between Foothill and Santa Rosa City College in the past. Foothill’s sophomore forward Daniel Combs also has not played since the incident. Foothill College imposed the same no-spectator rule at their home games. The Owls, seeded No. 18 in the NorCal bracket, play at Fresno City College in the first round of the state tournament.
Combs took his frustrations to Twitter on Jan. 29. “So now we’re a team full of delinquents,” he posted.
In addition to the fan ban at men’s games, there was increased security presence at the remaining women’s future basketball games, according to Prather.
“In retrospect,” Prather said, “we could’ve identified the people who caused the problem and had them settle down.”
At the time of the incident, Las Positas president Dyrell Foster was out of office. Kramer and acting vice president Jeanne Wilson spoke with Murray before the sanctions were handed down.
“As a member of the California Community College Athletic Association and the Coast Conference,” Foster said in a statement, “our college will fully abide by the sanctions, rules and regulations imposed by the Commission.”
He did not give a comment on his feelings about the decision but said the college would have conversations about security strategies to prevent future incidents.
Lizzy Rager is the editor-in-chief of Express. Follow her @RagerWriter.