The Halifax Rainmen have grounded their very own Air Canada, but they’re staying tight-lipped as to why.
Eric Crookshank, who can best be described as the Rainmen’s franchise player, was suspended for the rest of the Premier Basketball League season yesterday for “behaviour unbecoming to the overall well-being of the team.”
The 6-foot-8 forward, who rolled into town in December sporting Air Canada tattoos on his arms and talking boldly about winning a championship, publicly questioned head coach Rick Lewis for benching him in a loss on Sunday.
Lewis said Crookshank was not suspended for those comments but added that it was “a continuation” of the complaint. He also said the behaviour issues began prior to Sunday.
An incident that occurred sometime after practice on Tuesday was the tipping point, owner Andre Levingston said.
Without elaborating on what happened, he called it one of the toughest decisions he has ever made.
“Something more lenient than this wouldn’t solve the problem,” Levingston said. “Coach and I talked for hours. We went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
“At the end of the day, I think Eric will thank me for it. He may not now, but he will in the end.”
Levingston said the suspension isn’t meant to punish Crookshank, it’s to help, because he cares “more about Eric Crookshank as a man than as a basketball player.”
Crookshank, a fan-favourite who was an American Basketball Association all-star last season after leading the Rainmen in scoring, was devastated by the suspension.
“I lost my mother (five years ago) and this is probably the second worst thing that has happened to me in my life,” the 30-year-old said solemnly. “But life goes on.”
He will still get paid and has courtside access to games, but won’t be on the Rainmen bench. He will do community work, teaching youth the importance of accountability.
There are no rules preventing the Vallejo, Calif., native from signing with another PBL team, but Crookshank said he is committed to staying in Halifax.
“If I run from my problems, I’ll be running for life,” he said.
Crookshank will be welcomed back next season if he follows through with the terms of his suspension, but Levingston ruled out the possibility of reinstatement this year.
As for winning a championship in Halifax, Crookshank said, “I’ll just have to win a championship off the court.”