Bismarck, ND – Former Bismarck Bucks employees say recently fired coach and general manager Richard Davis bullied and abused his employees.
KX Sports reported first about Davis’ departure last month. He led the team to a lot of early success on the field. The Bucks made the playoffs in it’s first season last year. And The organization was named the CIF Franchise of the Year. But the team in the front office wasn’t as composed as the team on the field.
When players weren’t battling it out on the field, a different fight was taking place behind these doors.
“There’s always possible chemistry issues,” part-owner Paul Sjurseth said. “There’s a lot of reasons why you keep someone and don’t keep someone.”
Several days before the firing of coach and general manager Richard Davis, KX News uncovered a five-page complaint from a former employee detailing what it calls physical, verbal and mental intimidation and abuse.
A former employee describes constant conflicts with Davis regarding her job performance
“He yells, hits wall, or slams his fist on tables,” she wrote.
She described a three hour conversation she had with davis.
She wrote, “During these three hours Richard repeatedly told me “you are a problem, and are not part of the solution. Learn to be”…Throughout this verbal attack, he would get extremely angry. He would stand up, pace back and forth and slam his fist against the wall while yelling at me profusely and using foul language.”
We asked the team’s owner about his trust in Davis as a general manager.
“As a business owner, you gotta have faith in your people. You gotta give them some trust and give them a bit of a leash,” Sjurseth said.
But it is part of a pattern with Davis. We talked to several of his former employers.
“He ended up absolutely ruining the entire team, ran the company into the ground, lied about a lot stuff and he was very, very abusive verbally,” said one of his former employers who wished to remain anonymous.
That is just one of five employers we talked to who say they got rid of Davis for his off-the-field behavior.
In 2003, The Richmond Speed fired him in the middle of the season after arguing with the owner after a game. We talked to owner B.K. Katherman.
He said, “He’s a great coach because of his high emotions, but it doesn’t transfer well to the business side which is why he gets fired by business people.”
In 2005, he was fired from the Albany Conquest after just six games with the team. The team owner has since passed away. But the Albany Business Review reports that Davis “clashed with management.”
2006, Stockton Lightning team president Dan Chapman said they did not renew Davis’ contract after one season.
“The only thing I really want to say on the record is that we did have our challenges,” Chapman said.
He would not talk about his personal experiences, but we described the recent complaints against Davis in Bismarck.
“Your question was does that surprise me?” Chapman asked. “Not at all.”
2016, he coached the Bemidji Axemen. The team folded after Davis was there for one year. Sources tell us they experienced similar hostile behavior.
Then, he came to the Bucks. You might wonder if the Bucks had known about these past problems. Team owners would not answer that question.
The complaints here did not just detail the verbal abuse but also comments about race and gender.
The employee claims she brought her concerns to the majority owner, but she wrote that “no action to resolve the problem has been taken.”
Ownership denies that.
“We had several meetings and conversations with that individual. That person was not by any means ignored and was heard several times,” Sjurseth said.
Sjurseth told us these complaints were not the reason Davis was fired.
“Richard has a lot of good qualities. I wish him the best in his future endeavors. I hope he does well,” he said.
Throughout our investigation, we found at least 10 people who had similar complaints about Davis: former employers, employees and team sponsors.
We talked to Davis on the phone. He said he had never seen this recent complaint and was never given a chance to defend himself against it.
He did not want to do an interview on-the-record. Instead, he sent us this statement:
“Professional sports, as well as building a for profit business from the ground up, are both results driven endeavors. Under my direction the Bucks qualified for the playoffs in our inagural season, were named the CIF Franshise of the Year, and were healthy enough financially, for a respected company such as BEK Communications to make an investment into the ownership of the organization. I appreciated my opportunity to help build the company, and I wish the Bucks organization all the best moving forward. “