Pompey's supporters speak out Claim Dunbar coach target of witch hunt

August 19, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

Friends and supporters of Dunbar High School coach Pete Pompey became more vocal yesterday, saying that the recent probe into alleged mishandling of athletic department funds is part of a witch hunt intended to remove the coach from his high-profile position.

Those supporters say they have collected between 500 and 800 signatures on petitions of support for Pompey, the target of the investigation that is believed to be related to the school's operation of a concession stand at Oriole Park.

"This is just a witch hunt, 100 percent," said Bucky Lee, the junior varsity basketball coach at Dunbar and an assistant under Pompey on the varsity. "This is terrible. But this is not something that just started now -- it's something that's just becoming public now."

Lee and others said yesterday that there's been unhappiness among some Dunbar alumni with Pompey since he replaced Bob Wade in 1986. Wade, an alumnus of Dunbar, had a huge following. Pompey supporters said the Douglass High School graduate was always perceived to be an outsider.

"We'd be at games and you'd hear comments like, 'Go back to West Baltimore, you don't know what you're doing,' " Lee said yesterday.

In an article in yesterday's Sun, Baltimore city schools superintendent Walter G. Amprey said the school system began investigating Pompey after receiving complaints from alumni, parents and politicians. Amprey would not name those who had complained, and he went on to say he was surprised by the lack of public support for Pompey. Yesterday, several people called The Sun to defend Pompey.

Pompey has maintained his silence, but supporters described him as a motivator who would do anything to help his players.

"I can't sing enough of the man's praises because he works with these boys' minds and attitudes," said Norma Solomon, whose son, Michael Lloyd, was a star guard on the 1991-92 national championship team at Dunbar. "Michael was one of those kids who really didn't want to listen and didn't really talk to people. But he would go to Pete Pompey, and that made him a better person.

"I thank God for Pete Pompey, and I know a lot of other mothers do too," Solomon added. "Most of these kids don't have fathers, and he has been able to be a father figure."

James Clowney, an MTA policeman who said he attended as many Dunbar games as he could, said he often would see Pompey working with the kids at the stadium concession stand.

"He would work so much, sometimes until 1 a.m., and then he'd get up and go to work the next day," Clowney said. "I would wonder where he would get the energy from.

"This is just a plot, and his character is being greatly damaged."

Keith Booth, a member of the national championship team who also helped Dunbar to a state title last season, said he doesn't think there is any truth to the allegations of misuse of funds.

"I worked some of those games at the stadium and I don't believe it at all," said Booth, who starts at Maryland in the fall semester. "He was always helpful. He helped pay for my SAT tests a few times and whenever any of us needed anything he was always there to provide for us when our parents couldn't. There's somebody trying to bring the Dunbar program down, and it's crazy."

Norman Nolan, who is expected to be the top player in the city this season, was one of the Dunbar players who attended a rally for Pompey earlier this week.

"I was just showing I'm behind him 100 percent," Nolan said. "I'm just hoping he can pull through this. I think this is just a plan by people who want his job, and want him out."

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