Ty Baumgardner is stunned. So is the national high school basketball community. The Charlotte, N.C. high school basketball coach also is a little peeved.
Make that a lot peeved.
He planned to bring his Olympic High team to Naples from Dec. 27-31 for the revamped Gulfshore Invitational. So were 22 other national coaches and teams.
Just a week ago, the tournament's new organizer, Alexander Getta, announced the boys' hoops showcase was going national and would not feature any local teams. Getta announced three nationally ranked teams along with 18 of ESPN's top 100 players were coming to town. He said the tournament, with a change in the title from Shootout to Invitational, would rival the storied City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers.
Then on Thursday, two weeks before the first tipoff, Baumgardner and the other coaches heard reports that the tourney had been canceled. A reporter for MaxPreps.com, a high school recruiting site, posted the bad news on Twitter.
"Massive disappointment for a whole bunch of very good teams," reporter Jason Hickman tweeted. "Gulfshore development is shocking considering they just put out major announcement last week. Going to be a lot of ticked off coaches."
Getta said the tournament's major sponsorship — needed to help pay for the teams' travel — fell through two days ago. He would not name the sponsor.
Getta said he tried to save the event and found another sponsor but could only give teams a percentage of the promised $10,000 travel fee. Eventually, teams started to drop out and Getta said he officially canceled the event Friday evening.
Getta said he understands that his attempt to take the tournament to the next level turned out to be an air ball.
"Regrettably so, regrettably so," said Getta after a deep sigh to signal even more regret.
Baumgardner is scrambling and out some cash — $8,200 for starters. He put the players' plane tickets on his personal credit card.
On Friday morning, he said his biggest frustration was a lack of communication from Getta.
"First of all, (Getta) won't return any of my calls," said Baumgardner, whose teams were nationally ranked the past two seasons. "This is a complete, unprofessional ... I'm surprised I'm not cussing up a storm right now. It's been a complete joke."
Getta said he realizes that coaches are going to be upset and players will be disappointed.
"I understand there is a negative aspect," said Getta, who played at Barron Collier and played in the old Gulfshore Shootout, the former name of the tournament. "When you do something that doesn't work out there is always going to be a negative."
Getta said he is working with coaches to try to get them into other tournaments around the state. Getta also said any fans who purchased tickets for the tournament will have their checks returned and money refunded. He said the checks weren't even deposited.
Coach Tom Schneider, with Waterloo Academy outside of Toronto, said it's unfortunate the tournament — which he called "the best in the country" — has been canceled and he doesn't blame Getta. He said his squad is still planning to come to Naples after Christmas.
"Worst come to worst we will go to the beach," Schneider said Friday evening. "I'm confident we will still play some games. I don't have any ill will against the organizers of the event."
Getta had big dreams for the tournament.
The site was moved from Golden Gate High School, where it had been played since 2004, to the Community School of Naples, which is more centrally located and has larger facilities. Community School's athletic director Cassie Barone said a contract to host the event was never finalized but got an email from Getta apologizing for negative publicity and that the venue was not needed.
Last week, Getta unveiled the 14-team sanctioned draw that was to include three ESPN nationally ranked teams — No. 2 Montverde Academy, which is near Orlando, No. 13 Newark (N.J.)-St. Benedicts and No. 20 Hyattsville (Md.)-DeMatha. There was another eight-team unsanctioned event that was to include Deion Sanders' private prep school from Texas.
Ron Riley, executive director of the highly successful State Farm City of Palms Classic, which tips off its 40th event Tuesday, said he saw this coming.
"I'm not surprised, but I'm (angry)," Riley said. "Even with a major event, like the City of Palms Classic, for example, this stuff is done a year, a year and a half ahead of time. The moneys are in place. Everything's in place. And everywhere along the way, when people asked questions about title sponsors or other sponsors, they were told it was anonymous. Who gives anonymity in today's world in the sports arena? No one I know.
"As someone who represents the basketball tournament industry if you will, I'm sad and frankly (angry) about what this is doing to the kids and the teams. This is just a shame."
Riley also said athletic directors and coaches should've asked many more questions of Getta and company.
Baumgardner said he felt uneasy about the situation as time passed.
"I did," he said. "And I probably should've been a little smarter to know something was up."
Baumgardner said Getta blew up his phone last spring to convince him to bring his team.
The coach said airline tickets "are a major problem right now. We don't know what's going to happen. We're hoping maybe (the airlines) feel sorry for us or work with us a little bit."
The airline tickets Olympic High purchased cost around $8,200 and arrangements were made "months" ago to keep the cost down. As of Friday afternoon, Baumgardner, who purchased all 20 airline tickets on his personal card, said the airline would not give him a refund. Each ticket is issued in the passenger's name and those individuals must pay a $150 change fee to have the ticket charges changed to a later date and/or location.
Baumgardner also said several parents had made travel arrangements to accompany their sons to Southwest Florida.
"It's been a nightmare," Baumgardner said.
Getta did send all the coaches an email earlier Friday morning explaining the new developments with the loss of one sponsor and the addition of another but with not as much money. It stated that the airfare reimbursement would be up to $5,000 rather than the original $10,000. A "contribution" of $1,000 was offered for hotel rooms and the tournament had negotiated a reasonable $89 a night rate.
The email concluded with: "I truly hope this last financial effort will make it possible for you to continue to take part. We completely understand if this amount will not allow your program to take part, and will continue to work with you to assist in that transition."
Getta said he tried his best to save the event.
"I thought it was real important for the kids and the tournament," Getta said.
In the end, he couldn't guarantee the proper amount of teams (10) to run a sanctioned tournament, he said.
Former Barron Collier coach and current Golden Gate coach Joe Consolino created the Gulfshore Shootout in 1996. Getta said he played in the tournament for the Cougars and Consolino.
For the first time in 16 years, there will not be a boys' basketball tournament in Naples. Getta said he hasn't had time to think about the significance of the loss.
"I've only been thinking about the teams, I have not sat down and had time to reflect on everything," Getta said. "It is very disheartening."