Towson Catholic fails to answer key question on coaches' ouster: Why?

On High Schools

High Schools

April 19, 2005|By MILTON KENT

SOMETHING STRANGE has happened at the school Gert Scott, Tori Harrison and Carmelo Anthony put on the local basketball map, and it would be nice if someone clued the public in on it.

Depending on which version you accept, Towson Catholic first-year athletic director Jeff Palumbo either accepted or forced the resignations of the school's boys and girls basketball coaches last week.

Either way, Mike Daniel, who won 66 percent of his games over 20 years, and Tiffany Silver, who turned around a 1-18 program in three seasons, are out - and there doesn't seem to be a clear reason for the change.

Silver was rebuilding a program that had slid precipitously since the halcyon days of the 1980s, when Scott and Harrison were among the nation's best schoolgirl players before they went on to stellar careers at LSU and Louisiana Tech, respectively.

Instead, after three seasons, including a 15-10 mark this past winter, Silver, 24, who says she did not resign, is puzzled and angry, especially since she turned down two offers from college programs in the past three weeks to stay at Towson Catholic.

"I thought he [Palumbo] had my back," Silver said. "I thought he was there for me. I thought he liked the job that was being done. The kids are happy and smiling. You're not going to make every parent happy, but the bottom line is 90 percent of those kids were there because I brought them there. I don't know. It's just unfortunate."

Daniel led the Owls to a 26-12 record this past season - good for second in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association - with a runner-up finish in the Baltimore Catholic League tournament championship game.

"Everything in life is timing, and if there was a situation where they wanted to go in a different direction, there's ... a professional way of doing it," Daniel said last night. "I've always prided myself in trying to do the right thing, and this is what we try to tell the kids. I'm OK and I wish them well. I wish the school well. I wish the kids well. I want the kids to go on and to be successful."

Palumbo told The Sun last week, "We've been looking into changing some things, and the biggest thing is to have our coaches in the building."

That's all well and good, except Silver says that would mean that virtually every other coach would have to be replaced or hired on to the faculty.

"I don't know what that's all about," Silver said. "Maybe it sounds good to them, but it's completely untrue. And if it was so true, then everyone would have been fired. All those teams would have new coaches, and that's not the case."

Palumbo did not respond to phone messages yesterday.

Let's get one thing clear: Towson Catholic's administration has every right to run things as it sees fit. A lot of people talk about how out of control athletics has gotten on all levels, but hardly anyone does anything about it.

So, if an entity wants to get off the athletics merry-go-round and power things down for the sake of academics, or just for something as quaint as institutional integrity, we should tip our collective caps and wish them luck.

But integrity cuts both ways, and it appears Towson Catholic didn't show much to Silver or Daniel. If the school truly wanted to downsize its athletic program, then everyone involved - parents, teachers, students and coaches - should know that up front.

If Palumbo really wanted Daniel and Silver to be full-time teachers as well as coaches, he should have given them that option before pulling the rug from underneath them. If he didn't want them around anymore, he should have said that, too.

And if the decision to sack them came from higher up, then that says a couple of things, too. It says that the school administration didn't have the guts to do its own dirty work and tell the coaches that directly, instead leaving it to an intermediary, namely Palumbo.

It also says that Palumbo, who replaced Silver as athletic director, must have agreed with the choice or can live with it, because he apparently didn't tell his bosses no and didn't resign in protest.

There's something else to ponder: Is any of this is a reaction (or perhaps overreaction) to the spate of bad publicity that hit Towson Catholic's most famous alum, Carmelo Anthony, over the past year?

For the past two years, Towson Catholic got the best of its association with Anthony, but he got into a few messes - some, albeit, of his own making - and caught heat, some of which was bound to blow back onto Towson Catholic.

If there's a discomfort with Anthony and his troubles, it may be a part of a larger anxiety, namely that of race, or did it escape anyone's notice that the public faces of a private school with an overwhelmingly white student body are two black basketball coaches with teams that are nearly exclusively black?

Silver said she heard comments from members of the Towson Catholic community about her team's racial makeup.

If nothing else, Towson Catholic ought to go to the MIAA and get it to waive its rule barring players who transfer from one member school to another from playing for a year. Those boys may very well have wanted a Towson Catholic education, but they almost certainly wanted to play for Daniel. If the school cut him loose, the MIAA also should let his players go without penalty.

Apparently, Silver's players and their parents are already discussing leaving, and perhaps that's best. After all, who wants to play or coach at a place where you're not welcome, and even worse, where no one will come right out and tell you so?

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