Gary McKnight has been called many things in his 25 years as coach for Mater Dei High School's powerful boys' basketball team. Legend. Louse. Disciplinarian. Master strategist.
But now, we can officially call him a pedophile helper.
This revelation comes courtesy of the Jeff Andrade civil case. You might remember it out of the dozens filed against the Catholic Diocese of Orange as the one involving McKnight's 34-year-old assistant basketball coach, a 15-year-old female student, and a hot dog cart.
Although Mater Dei officials fired Andrade in 1997 after allegations surfaced that he slept with the student, they've nevertheless defended him in the current civil suit; they've even gone as far as arguing in court that the victim's lawyer (famed Newport Beach attorney and Mater Dei alum John Manly) shouldn't be able to ask witnesses whether they knew if other Mater Dei employees besides Andrade ever faced molestation charges.
The case has been in litigation for almost a year, but excerpts from Andrade's Nov. 28 deposition are now in the public record. In it, Andrade makes a couple of extraordinary revelations. After his dismissal from Mater Dei, Andrade sought and found work as a substitute teacher in the Huntington Beach High School District and as a Westminster High boys' basketball coach—this despite Mater Dei officials forcing Andrade to resign because of the molestation allegations. Andrade also recalled a 1992 trip to the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament paid for by McKnight that involved, among other things, the two visiting strip clubs. And Andrade dropped nearly a decade of denials and admitted to sleeping with the 15-year-old student—had sex with her in McKnight's office, even.
The bond between McKnight and Andrade goes deeper than this, however. It was McKnight—who coached Andrade at Ocean View High School in the late 1970s—who convinced Mater Dei officials to hire Andrade originally. And it was McKnight who got Andrade a job at Mater Dei after the school's officials let Andrade go.
In the deposition, Andrade told Manly that his last visit to Mater Dei was in 2000 or 2001 while working for Varsity Gold, a company that organizes fundraisers for high schools. Andrade said he worked with the girls' and boys' basketball squads, along with the track and volleyball teams. His point of contact person? Coach McKnight. Mater Dei contracted Andrade for two years. During this time, no Mater Dei official, according to Andrade, questioned McKnight about why he brought back someone whom the school fired for inappropriate relations with a teen.
"In a way, the public is very fortunate to see these facts air," said Manly. "In my opinion, what is very clear is that Mater Dei is willing to put its basketball program as more important than anything, including protecting children from being raped."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts