Hale and Blast await Wittman suspension

Interim coach sought after alleged chokehold

Pro Soccer


Blast officials are expecting some type of suspension for Tim Wittman, possibly as early as today, after an incident Saturday night in California in which the coach allegedly put an official in a chokehold and was later arrested and released.

Team operator Ed Hale said he will be meeting with other Blast officials this morning to discuss the situation, which happened at the end of the Blast's 8-6 loss to the California Cougars. Wittman allegedly ran at official Yader Reyes and got him in a chokehold on the floor of the arena.

California's Vicente Figueroa jumped in to stop the incident, and Blast goalkeeper Sagu took Wittman off the field. Hale said last night that he's expecting the Major Indoor Soccer League to suspend Wittman.

"We're going to the playoffs," Hale said. "We're in this to put a winning team on the field, and the coach has to be there, too. We are going to need to have a team with a coach."

Hale said he's unsure of who will be coaching the team this week. There are several options.

Assistant coach Tarik Walker doesn't have much coaching experience, but general manager Kevin Healey spent more than four seasons as the Blast's coach. Hale also said there are others in the area he could consider, but he wants to see what the league does.

"I've got to start thinking about that very seriously," Hale said. "I'll have to do something, and the most important thing is we need a coach, whether it's Timmy or someone else. We're going to need to have something resolved [today]."

Hale spoke with league commissioner Steve Ryan and others to get information on what happened. Wittman talked briefly with Hale before leaving California yesterday.

"He's a Baltimore guy," Hale said. "He's a Hall of Fame player for us, and he's been around soccer [here] since the early '80s. He's been a winner at every position he's held, and I'm not going to do anything to him until I find out what the facts are."

Wittman was traveling yesterday and not available for comment. California team officials also weren't available. Ryan said he won't comment on a matter that's under league investigation.

An investigation also is continuing in Stockton, where Wittman, 42, was arrested and released on his own recognizance. Keith Smith, the Stockton Police Department's public information officer, said Wittman was cited for battery section 243 of the California Penal Code.

Smith said the officers came to Wittman when he left the arena, cited and released him on the spot, giving him a ticket. Stockton police have the power to do this if the victim approves and if they see the incident.

"Mr. Wittman was very cooperative with the officers and very apologetic about the whole thing," Smith said.

Smith said court dates for the charges will be pending, and the matter is going to be up to the local district attorney for further review.

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