Prominent members of Sarnia’s basketball community are shocked and dismayed that Lambton College has suddenly and without explanation parted ways with the head coach of its women’s team.
The college confirmed this week it wasn’t renewing the contract of Kendel Ross, a local basketball star who went on to play pro and coached the Lambton Lions to the provincial finals in 2020.
But a college spokesperson wouldn’t comment further or say why Ross was let go.
“Lambton is grateful for the time and effort that Kendel Ross put into leading the women’s basketball program,” Cindy Buchanan said.
Ross was “unexpectedly” told she was done as head coach two weeks ago during a Zoom call, she told The Journal. Lambton’s Athletic Department simply said their visions do not align, Ross said.
“Obviously, this is a tremendously challenging situation as I care deeply about the Sarnia community and the college from my hometown; however, I need to take more time before commenting further publicly to get to a place where I can speak from a place of love.”
The decision has sparked a backlash.
John Thrasher, who coached hundreds of Sarnia players to university scholarships and professional careers, said Lambton’s decision makes no sense.
“She made that program into something the community and the college could be proud of,” said Thrasher, who coached Ross at Northern Collegiate.
“She cared and she worked hard, doing things the right way. I think this caught her totally off guard.”
Ross holds a Masters of Science in Education, played professionally in Portugal and Spain, and was a member of the Canadian national team. As a coach, she started an off-season program for high school athletes and was an assistant coach with Team Ontario in 2017 before being hired by Lambton.
Ross has been engaging local female players in hopes of recruiting them to play basketball for Lambton, Thrasher said.
Lambton Lions point guard and former NCAA player Cassidy Crowe posted 22 letters of support for Ross on Facebook, including one from players on Lambton’s men’s team.
“It devastates me that the opportunity to have the incredible experience that I had within that program has been taken away from the women who follow behind me with very little explanation,” Crowe said in Facebook post.
On Wednesday the college announced it had found a new head coach for the women’s program this fall.
Janine Day is a Northern Collegiate graduate who teaches high school in Wallaceburg. Day is a provincial, regional, club and high school coach and was a coach with the Red Deer College women’s basketball team, Lambton said.