Sam Cassell of the NBA champion Houston Rockets was among more than 70 supporters who rallied yesterday in front of the city school administration building and several local news cameras to back ousted Dunbar athletic director and coach Pete Pompey.
Keith Booth, a freshman starter at Maryland last year, was excused early from practice by coach Gary Williams to attend the rally. Rodney Elliott, who will enter his freshman year at Maryland this fall, passed out fliers and carried a poster that read, "Honk if you support Pete Pompey."
Cassell, calling Pompey a friend, said: "We talked on the phone the other day about what I need to do to better myself."
"Coach Pompey's record speaks for itself," said Booth. "He's sent guys like Cassell, myself, Michael Lloyd and Donta Bright to Division I colleges."
Pompey was placed on paid leave from his athletic director and coaching positions nearly 14 months ago pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged misuse of funds.
Pompey, former coach of the football team and the Poets' nationally ranked basketball program, has sought a return since an Aug. 5 announcement by Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms that his office had insufficient evidence to continue pursuing criminal charges.
In a meeting with city schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey on Tuesday, Pompey and his attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., were told they will have to wait at least another week for the school board to decide if Pompey can return to Dunbar.
During that time, Amprey and the board will review the investigation's findings and also "consider some personnel issues which I am not at liberty to discuss," Amprey said.
"We really are optimistic that we're going to work things out," Murphy said after Tuesday's meeting. "It was a fair discussion, and we anticipate a favorable outcome."
"I've been on the sidelines in football and in basketball, but this is the toughest sideline battle I've fought," Pompey told his supporters at yesterday's rally. "I've fought it for 14 months, and I can hold out as long as necessary."
David Lewis, a 1989 Dunbar graduate who a day earlier delivered pro-Pompey petitions containing 1,307 signatures to Amprey, wore a shirt depicting Pompey that read, "We support Coach Pompey, bring our coach back where he belongs." All-Metro football player Derrick Player, a 1994 graduate, carried a similar sign.
"In my opinion, there are only certain types of guys who can coach down at Dunbar," said Cassell. "His door is always open, and he's an individual who will listen to anybody's problems. I think if he doesn't get his job back, the kids will suffer."
Dunbar has not named a permanent replacement for Pompey as football coach. Interim coach Stanley Mitchell has conducted three practices already.