Varsity Extra

Coach of Idaho’s top baseball program sidelined. But school district won’t say why.

Timberline baseball coach Jeff Reifman, second from left, poses with Timbereline's seniors last season.
Timberline baseball coach Jeff Reifman, second from left, poses with Timbereline's seniors last season. Courtesy of Jeff Reifman

Jeff Reifman stepped down as the Timberline High baseball coach Monday, ending a three-week-long mystery surrounding him and the perennial Idaho baseball powerhouse.

The Boise School District placed Reifman on paid administrative leave April 4 as it investigated the Wolves’ second-year coach. Reifman declined to reveal what the district investigated or why he resigned, saying he didn’t want to become any more of a distraction to the team.

“I will say that the district did not have any findings of wrongdoing,” Reifman, 32, said. “It’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want to be removed right in the middle of our season after all the time and hard work that has gone in, and all the care that I’ve put in over the last two years.

“It wasn’t my choice to go on leave, and if it were truly up to me, I would have been back immediately with the guys I love and care about. I miss them every single day, and it’s torture to be away from them.”

Timberline Principal Ted Hettinga said he couldn’t comment about Reifman or the investigation, adding the district told him to refer all questions to Jon Ruzicka, the district’s activities director, and Brian Walker, the area director over Timberline and the schools that feed into the high school.

Walker did not return multiple messages from the Idaho Statesman this week. Ruzicka confirmed the district investigated Reifman and that the investigation is complete but he would not provide details.

“I can’t go into that,” Ruzicka. “It’s a personnel matter, obviously.”

The district also suspended Reifman from his physical education teaching duties at Timberline, but he remains a teacher at Fairmont Junior High. Reifman previously split time between the schools.

Reifman said the Boise School District also instructed him not to set foot on Timberline’s campus, attend any extracurricular events or have any contact with the team or its coaching staff during the investigation. He said that’s been hard, but he added that it’s in the Wolves’ best interest not to dwell on the past and move forward with their postseason goals.

Timberline (11-9, 7-6 5A SIC) ends the regular season Monday at Nampa, and the district tournament starts May 7.

“I would have loved to finish out the season with the guys and finish what we started several months ago,” Reifman said. “I have a lot of faith and belief that we’ve got an amazing group of seniors that will take the lead and keep this team on track. I have a lot of faith that those guys will lead this team back to making another run at a state championship, like we set out to do several months ago.”

Reifman took over the Timberline baseball team as the second coach in program history when Larry Price resigned after the 2016 season. Price built Timberline into a perennial powerhouse, winning six state titles and reaching the state tournament 15 times in 18 seasons since Timberline opened in the 1998-99 school year.

In Reifman’s first season, he led Timberline to a 21-8 record and a second-place finish at the 5A state tournament. With eight returning starters, 5A SIC coaches picked Timberline second in a preseason coaches’ poll. But the Wolves struggled early in the season, compiling a 5-6 record before Reifman’s suspension.

Former Timberline football coach Kirk Copeland has taken over the baseball team as the interim coach. Copeland joined the baseball team as an assistant coach for the first time this spring. He previously led the Bonneville High baseball program in Idaho Falls for four years in the mid-2000s.

Copeland said getting asked to step in as the interim coach came as a shock. Since then, he said he’s focused on team-building exercises and tried to stay out of the way.

“I think the first day when they were told was a difficult day for them,” Copeland said of the players. “All I’ve really tried to do is get the ship out of the harbor and let it sail.

“I told them right away: ‘I’m not going to coach you out of games. You’re going to get to go out and play baseball, because you’re better at that than I am at coaching you.’ ”