Chicago Public Schools has suspended two high school head basketball coaches for demonstrating unprofessional conduct in the wake of a post-game fight last week that ended with a student's murder outside the gymnasium. Robert Smith of Simeon Career Academy and Nick Irvin of Morgan Park High School will sit out four games each for behavior that CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said "shocked and appalled" her. (The terms of the suspension require the coaches to attend the games in a non-coaching capacity.)
According to CBS affiliate WBBM, the coaches broke up a fight that erupted in the handshake line after Simeon's 53-51 victory over Morgan Park at Chicago State University on Jan. 16, but then they both engaged in a shouting match. Outside, shortly after the incident, 17-year-old Tyrone Lawson was shot in the back and killed.
Michael McNabb, 32, and Stephen Gilbert, 29, were arrested and charged in the shooting, but prosecutors have not said whether they think the murder was related to the scuffle during the post-game handshake, according to DNAinfo.com/Chicago.
Byrd-Bennett, nevertheless, is standing firm, releasing a statement calling for an attitude change among the city's high school coaches. "Coaches in Chicago Public Schools must serve as mentors, instructors and role models for our students both on and off the court or field of competition," she said in the statement. "The children under their charge take their cues from them on what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Knowing this, coaches must at all times conduct themselves in a professional and sportsmanlike manner. Through both words and actions, the boys basketball coaches of Morgan Park and Simeon high schools on Jan. 16 violated the code of conduct to which they all must subscribe as a basic responsibility of their positions. We have taken the proper disciplinary steps to address their actions."
The Chicago Tribune reports that all CPS coaches are required to attend a meeting scheduled for early February, when behavior expectations will be discussed in more detail.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also chimed in about the incident at an unrelated press conference this week. "I think all the adults that went to that game have a role to play in setting an example for our kids," he said, when asked about the suspensions. "That includes the refs. That includes the parents in the bleachers, and it also includes the coaches. Players look to you. Kids going to the schools, as well as going to the games, look to you. And if you had any role or position in which you did not set an example, that's more than just unfortunate."
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Simeon and Whitney M. Young Magnet School - the two top-ranked high school teams in Illinois, according to the latest AP rankings - will still tip-off on Saturday at Chicago State in a match-up that will be televised by ESPNU. There had been concerns that the game would be moved or postponed.
The incident last week at Chicago State was not the first time violence has flared among fans of Simeon and Morgan Park. In September, a disturbance broke out in the stands at Gately Stadium during a football game between the two teams. That game was suspended and resumed later in front of an empty stadium.