William Paterson Basketball Players Walk Off Court in Protest of Coach's Firing

William Paterson University's basketball team forfeited a conference game to protest the firing of its coach, dressing and warming up before collectively walking off the court as the game was about to begin.

The Division III school forfeited Tuesday night against Ramapo College in support of longtime coach Jose Rebimbas, who was in his 21st season.

Rebimbas declined comment on Wednesday, but said on Facebook on Sunday that he was fired because of a misunderstanding over facility rental fees for a camp he runs.

The posting notes the firing "despite the university hearing officer determining that termination was not warranted," and that the "university has unfairly and illegally taken my right to coach and mentor the student athletes I move." 

"I am prepared to fight and restore my good name," he added. 

The university acknowledged in a statement to NBC 4 New York that students have a right to express their opinion but "we don't discuss matters regarding employees." 

The statement noted its pride of a long tradition of athletic success. 

Ramapo coach Chuck McBreen says when his team was getting ready for introductions, William Paterson's players threw their warmup shirts on the floor and walked off. McBreen says the interim coach then said the players had decided not to play.

Student Nicole Fryer said she sympathizes with the WPU players, who so far this season had a 3-1 record. A long line of banners in the rec center arena also testify to Rebimbas' success. 

"I just kind of expected it, as I feel it's like what most people would do," she said.

Another student said, "It shows a lot of respect for the team to walk off, showing support for the coach. He must be a good guy." 

But one student supporting the protest doesn't necessarily want the walkout to last the entire season.

"I don't want the whole season to go downhill, you know what I mean," said Haneef Jennings. 

It's not clear whether the walkout will continue for Saturday night's game or even the rest of the season. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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