Hart controversy generates a few unanswered questions

SIDELINES

July 02, 1993|By PAT O"MALLEY

In the aftermath of the Dan Hart controversy at Annapolis High School, a lot of questions without answers have popped up.

After a letter from the Chesapeake Lacrosse Officials reached Annapolis principal Laura Webb and the Board of Education, Hart's contract as the Panthers' boys lacrosse coach after five seasons (45-28) was not renewed.

The letter was written by and signed by Chesapeake president Buzz Winchester on behalf of the officials' executive board.

The letter cites Hart's behavior as a coach as being "unacceptable" and asked Webb "to modify" the alleged behavioral problems.

Hart, who is not commenting, is appealing the decision and has hired an attorney.

Harry Dobson, the commissioner of the Chesapeake group, assigns officials and confirmed that Hart had a problem with Winchester working Annapolis games and requested that he not be assigned to them.

"I told Dan I would do my best to keep him [Winchester] off his games," said Dobson.

After keeping Winchester off Annapolis' regular-season games, Dobson assigned him to a playoff game against eventual state 3A-4A champion Broadneck. The Bruins won by a goal, and Hart made a mistake by going to Dobson's house to confront him after the game.

Dobson's excuse that he "had a hard time getting six officials with vacations and people not being available" was lame at best.

Wasn't that Dobson's way of saying that Hart wasn't going to tell the officials what to do?

What was more amazing was Winchester saying, "I didn't know that he didn't want me working his games."

I find it tough to believe that Dobson and Winchester never discussed the situation. Officials confide in each other and defend each other all the time because they feel it's them against the world, which is really not so.

What's interesting is that Hart once officiated in the Chesapeake group and was "a very good official" Dobson once said.

Whenever there is a problem with a coach, how many times have you heard the words "he's a nice guy, but he's a different person when he is on the sidelines?"

How come we never hear "when he puts on the official's uniform, he's a different person?"

Aren't we dealing with the human element here, and doesn't human nature apply equally to coaches and officials?

There is also a vindictive element here. Webb was dismayed that Winchester asked her if he could release the allegations in the letter to The Capital last Wednesday.

"I told him absolutely not, because this is a confidential personnel decision and not public knowledge," said Webb.

Why would Winchester want to put the dirty laundry out on the street?

Also, why would Winchester, who said "it was not the intent of the letter to have [Hart] removed as coach," send a copy to the Board of Education where Kenneth Lawson, second in command to superintendent C. Berry Carter would be privy to it?

Nearly 10 years ago, Lawson, then principal at Meade, fired Hart as Meade soccer coach and Hart then resigned as lacrosse coach. I'm not saying that Lawson would hold a grudge, but why would Dobson, Winchester and the Chesapeake executive board want to bring the problem to the attention of the higher-ups without first letting Webb handle it?

"We did it because we want to improve coach/officials relations," said Winchester.

Improve? How about throwing fuel on the fire?

"We would never go so far as to write a letter on a coach and send it to the board," said Jack Kramp, head of the Anne Arundel Amateur Baseball Umpires Association.

"When we have a problem in the high school season, and we have few, I confront the coach and we talk it over. We get along great with the high school coaches and I have never had a coach ask us to keep an umpire off his games," Kramp said.

"If a coach did ask not to have a certain umpire, we would not send him because the coach doesn't need it and the umpire doesn't need it."

The last thing we need is holding grudges, writing letters and officials getting coaches fired. When officials become that important, it's time to look at the high school athletic program and say, "Who needs this?"

The answer is simple -- the kids need it, and adults need to behave in adult fashion.

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