Dunbar's Smith clarifies suspended duo's claims Says he, not mates, gave tourney update

December 24, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Dunbar's interim coach Paul Smith yesterday stood by his decision to suspend two players from his nationally ranked team, adding that their version of the story -- which appeared in yesterday's Sun and Evening Sun -- "isn't totally true."

Guard Michael Cooper and forward Alexander Mobley, both starters for the Poets, ranked No. 14 by USA Today, disagreed with Smith about playing time during last Thursday's win over Walbrook. They were benched for Friday's 72-71 loss to Southern in a matchup of the area's No. 1 and No. 2 teams.

Cooper and Mobley, who sat on the bench in street clothes during the Southern game, said their main gripe was the manner in which they were benched.

Cooper said he and Mobley were not informed of their punishment by Smith. Instead, he said they learned of their suspensions Friday afternoon when interim athletic director Gail Robinson did not allow them to pick up their uniforms for the Southern game.

"The only reason they found out from Ms. Robinson is that I don't teach at the school," said Smith.

The players said they learned from teammates that Smith had announced during a team meeting Monday that Mobley and Cooper would not make the trip to Altoona, Pa., for a tournament next week. Smith, however, said he spoke to the players on three separate occasions between Friday and Wednesday, and "thought the situation was resolved and understood."

He was surprised yesterday afternoon when he was informed about the comments from Cooper and Mobley by a reporter.

"The story isn't totally true in terms of my comments to the players," Smith responded. "They know what happened, and their comments are their own."

Smith would not discuss the length of the players' suspension or the events leading up to it, but said he regretted having publicly aired his displeasure with his team after the victory over Walbrook last Thursday.

Smith viewed the 74-59 win as a lackluster effort by the Poets, pTC saying afterward, "It's quite possible that we might not have some people with us tomorrow [against Southern] because I will have a clean clubhouse."

Yesterday, Smith spoke in different terms.

"Last Thursday, I said some things I shouldn't have said," he said. "I spoke in disappointment about something that should have remained an in-house problem.

"But what has happened since then is an example of the way Dunbar basketball is viewed," Smith said. "I'm very accessible to reporters, but one of the first things I told my players is that they should be careful what they say to the press. Last Thursday, I violated my first rule."

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