Battling in the courts to save his empire and in his state to fight off a resurgent pandemic, Gov. Jim Justice could be taking on a familiar new challenge: coaching boys basketball.
The Greenbrier Board of Education is expected Tuesday to vote on whether to hire Justice as the head coach of the Greenbrier East boys team, board member Kay Smith said Monday.
Word of the move comes five months after Justice agreed to spend more time in Charleston as governor and three weeks after a state senator suggested his attention may be too divided among his private businesses and public office.
Justice “already is the girls coach,” Smith noted, referring to his role with Greenbrier East’s girls team.
Other board members said they would be voting Tuesday for a boys coach but declined to comment further.
The board’s agenda stated the panel is set to vote on personnel but did not list specific hires.
The Governor’s Office did not respond to an email sent late Monday afternoon. Calls to Justice and the school superintentendent were not returned.
The board will meet on the campus of New River Community and Technical College.
It would be the second time Justice coached the boys basketball team at Greenbrier East.
He coached both the boys and girls from 2010 until resigning from coaching the boys in 2017.
“I’m with them all the time,” Justice said after a girls basketball game in 2017. “Even with my new duties, first and foremost. Today I had to miss a girls practice, but I don’t miss many and I’ve got great quality assistant coaches. But first and foremost is [being] the governor.’’
He began coaching at Greenbrier East in 2000, while his daughter, Jillean Justice Long, was playing for the girls team.
The Greenbrier East girls won a state championship in 2012, the same year the school retired Long’s number.
Smith, who has been on the Greenbrier Board of Education for 14 years, voted against Justice as the boys coach in what was a 3-2 vote to hire him for his first tenure. She declined to indicate how she would vote Tuesday.
Justice’s potential return to the boys court comes less than a month after state Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, suggested Justice consider resigning from office amid substantial legal and financial issues among the Justice family’s private coal, land and hospitality businesses.
In February, Justice settled a lawsuit with former Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton.
As part of the settlement, Justice agreed to “reside” in Charleston after Sponaugle accused the governor of violating the state constitution by refusing to reside in Charleston after being elected governor in 2016.
Justice settled about three months after the state Supreme Court ruled that “reside” under the state constitution means “to live, primarily, at the seat of government and requires that the executive officials’ principal place of physical presence is the seat of government for the duration of his or her term of office.”
The practice for high school basketball season in West Virginia begins in the late fall, with the season typically lasting until February or early March. The legislature, as defined in the state constitution, meets for its annual 60-day session from January to March, except during years immediately after a gubernatorial election, when it meets from February to April.
The new coaching position also comes as all of the Justice family businesses, managed by Justice, his son James “Jay” Justice III and Long, are tied up in lawsuits and the bankruptcy proceedings of a British-based company, Greensill Capital.
The family’s legal and financial issues came to light in March, when the Justice family businesses sued Greensill in federal court, claiming breach of contract. The Justices filed the lawsuit 10 days before Greensill filed for bankruptcy in March.
Justice said on June 2 that his family business loans had “flowed from Carter Bank to Greensill.” Greensill loaned Bluestone $850 million as part of a deal the companies made in May 2018, according to the Justices’ lawsuit.
Among the accusations made by the Justices against Greensill, the family claims the global finance firm breached a 2018 contract as part of a scheme to possibly gain control of Bluestone Resources to then sell the company to Credit Suisse.
In a separate lawsuit filed May 31, the day before the Carter Bank loans were set to mature, the Justices claimed bank executives used “bait and switch” tactics to “induce” their companies to default on loans established with the bank’s founder, Worth Carter, who died in 2017.
The Justices’ lawsuit against Carter Bank is pending in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.
Carter Bank claims the Justice-owned companies owe the bank more than $61 million.
In July, Justice told West Virginians to “sit back and wait and watch” to see how the legal proceedings pan out for his companies.
“At the end of the day, what we need to do is just stand down and see where this thing finally wraps up, and know that my effort is wholeheartedly behind running this state as your governor and doing the right things for this state as your governor,” Justice said July 20.