Leverett defends yanking his team Sabers coach says crowd was a concern, denies referees' claims

December 20, 1997|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Southwestern boys basketball coach Terry Leverett yesterday defended his actions in pulling his team off the court in a game at Randallstown last Saturday, and denied referees' charges that he followed them to the school's parking lot after the game and cursed at them.

Leverett, who earned All-Metro Coach of the Year honors in The Sun after guiding the Sabers to a 27-0 record and state Class 4A championship last season, ordered his team off the floor with 2: 49 remaining at Randallstown -- shortly after receiving a technical foul for stepping out of the coaches' box while disputing a foul called on one of his players, according to an official's report.

Leverett and some of the Sabers later followed the game officials to their cars, according to a report filed by one of the officials.

"I can't control other people, and it had happened to me twice in my career where officials were beat up after games [against Walbrook at Southwestern in 1992 and at Calvert Hall in 1994]," said Leverett, 110-35 over seven seasons at Southwestern.

"I contemplated this as I saw the crowd going over the edge, along with the fact that, during the game [at Randallstown], one of the officials told me that a fan had threatened him. I thought I was doing the right thing [in pulling his team]."

In response to the report that he followed officials to their cars, Leverett, who also has officiated basketball in recreation leagues for 15 years, said: "That did not happen, and no one in their right mind can say I used any profanity or a threatening manner.

"I was nowhere near the parking lot when they [officials] were out there. I spent 30 or 40 minutes with my team or being interviewed [by a reporter]," said Leverett, adding that he apologized to Randallstown coach Kim Rivers for ending the game. "When I left the building, the only people out there [in the parking lot] were police officers."

The Randallstown game was the fourth known incident in which referees have felt threatened after games involving Leverett-coached teams.

After the Southwestern loss to Walbrook in 1992, official Archie Shaw wrote that he was assaulted by four of Leverett's players and asked that the players and Leverett be suspended.

Leverett also recalled the game at Calvert Hall during the 1993-94 season after which Cardinals coach Mark Amatucci said officials "were chased [by Southwestern players and fans] down the hall and had to be escorted from school grounds by the police."

In May 1994, two baseball officials reported that Leverett, also the Sabers' baseball coach, cursed at them and followed them to their cars in the wake of a loss to Edmondson. Jimmy Diggs, then-commissioner of umpires, condemned Leverett's remarks as "not only unethical, unsportsmanlike and demeaning," but as having "no place in high school sports."

"I truly believe that I'm still paying for that baseball situation, and all this is an extension of what happened there," Leverett said. "He [an umpire] told me, 'Shut up, boy,' and I went off.

"That was an outburst, and it's documented that I received treatment for that. This [Randallstown game] was not the same thing. This wasn't an outburst, and I was not ranting and raving."

Also yesterday, Southwestern principal Mildred Harris confirmed that Leverett is "on suspension pending the outcome of an investigation being handled by Baltimore City public schools" into his actions at Randallstown.

"I was told there was a history [of inappropriate behavior by Leverett] prior to my assignment to Southwestern," Harris said, "And Mr. Leverett and I did talk. We discussed expectations and the responsibility of a coach. This is the first such incident in my tenure."

Harris said she met with the Southwestern basketball players yesterday morning to explain Leverett's status and to give "a sort of pre-game pep talk" to the Sabers before yesterday's game at Douglass, a 73-51 Southwestern loss.

Harris said Vernon Joines, a physical education teacher at Southwestern and a varsity football assistant to Leverett, was on the sideline for the Sabers against Douglass yesterday "because he is a permanent teacher and Mr. [Michael] Marks [an assistant who coached the team in a win Tuesday over Carver] is not full-time."

Asked how long the investigation would take, Harris said: "I really don't know.

"With two days left in the school year before the holidays, I'm not sure how much can be accomplished," Harris said. "But I do know that the young men [players] need some stability, so we need closure as soon as possible."

Leverett "could be removed as coach" or "a milder punishment would be removal from a certain number of games," she added. "But if nothing is true, he would resume his position."

The referees detailed the allegations of Leverett's post-game behavior to Mike Malone, commissioner of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, Board No. 23.

"I'm glad that the proper discipline is being dealt to the coach because that conduct is inexcusable," Malone said. "He has a total lack of leadership, total lack of sportsmanship, knowing what his role is in the high school scene of athletics.

"As officials, we are extensions of the teaching profession and, at games, we try to act as professionally as teachers in the classroom," Malone added.

"Since this has happened, I understand he had some officiating on the rec level, which makes it even more surprising that someone who has been in an officiating role would act this way toward a fellow official."

Pub Date: 12/20/97

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