Norris asked to resign, he says

March 22, 1994|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Staff Writer Jeff Seidel contributed to this story.

Woodlawn boys basketball coach Rod Norris, who had a 94-22 record over the last five seasons, said yesterday that Woodlawn principal Alex Murphy asked him to resign last Thursday.

Norris said he was told by Murphy, "my program had reached a plateau, that I didn't do a good job with the mental aspect and that the kids didn't respect me."

"Those were the reasons he gave as he asked me to step down," said Norris, who said that athletic director Ralph Graham was also present at the meeting.

"Ralph said he hadn't known about the decision, and there wasn't a word said about any criteria," Norris said. "My kids go to class, and if you watch them play, they're under control and carry themselves well."

Murphy did not return a call to the school yesterday.

Baltimore County coordinator of athletics Ron Belinko said principals annually review their coaches, and that Norris -- who said he has nothing in writing that indicates he has been fired -- "is still officially the coach."

Belinko acknowledged, however, that Murphy "is reconsidering his [Norris'] status for next year."

lTC "Every coaching assignment is for one year, after which there's an evaluation period," Belinko said. "There's more to coaching than winning and losing. You're a student-athlete first. I think you'll find Baltimore County's principals taking a closer look at that.

Norris said he had no knowledge he would be asked to resign before Thursday's meeting. It was the first of two meetings in three days with Murphy, and he said he felt pressure since Murphy's arrival last year.

Norris, who has a 44-3 record during Murphy's tenure -- including a 20-2 record and a No. 9 ranking this year -- said he was discussing next year's schedule with Murphy on Tuesday when the principal first voiced his criticism of the program.

"From jump street, I've felt pressure, but we've never had a falling out or any arguments," said Norris, who played at Towson State.

However, Norris played down an incident late this season in which he disciplined two players by having them sit out two games.

"They missed a team meeting," Norris said. "You set standards and, if the standards are broken, you may have to discipline a kid. I'm not going to change my standards with two weeks left in the season."

Woodlawn, ranked as high as No. 4 this season, lost only to city powers Dunbar and Southwestern. Last year's team went 24-1.

Belinko said Murphy came highly recommended from Youngstown, Ohio, where he was "known for emphasizing athletics and had some quality athletic programs." Belinko praised Murphy's work last year on a committee for athletic improvement.

But the move surprised Woodlawn All-County player Emanuele Adekunle and All-Metro junior Guy Butler.

Adekunle, a 4.0 student who scored 1,150 on his Scholastic Assessment Test, said he was pursued by 10 different colleges -- several offering full scholarships -- a fact he attributes to Norris.

"I respect him. He did a lot for me. That they'd consider firing him would be the farthest thing from my mind," said Adekunle.

Said Butler: "I had grade problems my first year at Woodlawn, but he stayed on me to do better. He's the only person other than my parents to take interest in me. I don't understand what grounds they're basing his removal on."

Another successful Baltimore County boys basketball coach is also leaving but with less controversy. Catonsville's Art Gamzon stepped down after eight years with the Comets and 13 years as a varsity coach.

Gamzon, who won three consecutive regional titles (1991-93) and one Class 2A state title with Catonsville, also coached three years at Oakland Mills and two at Milford Mill.

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