Winning Isn’t Everything..

We know that coaches want their teams to win. We also know that parents want to give their student-athlete the best chance to develop his or her skills to be the best players they can be.

Attucks basketball

Photo Courtesy of Indianapolis Star

So it’s interesting to see the cautionary tale being played out this school year at Indianapolis’ Crispus Attucks High School, where the head basketball coach has been reassigned and parents are outraged.

A bit of background: Crispus Attucks is the home of basketball legend Oscar Robertson and, despite falling on recent hard basketball times, has battled back to become relevant again in the sport that Indiana worships. A lot of that has been because of head coach Phil Washington, who was named city coach of the year last season in Indianapolis for leading Attucks to a 19-6 record and the Class 2A regional final. He also brought Attucks its first sectional titles, in 2014 and 2015, since 1973.

It’s obvious Washington wants to win. So it’s not surprising that winning would bring tighter scrutiny from the Indiana High School Athletic Association, which ruled in November, then upheld the ruling last month, that two transfer students playing for Washington were ineligible because the IHSAA said they transferred to Attucks for athletic reasons—which is a no-no.

Here’s the back story: Washington is from Anderson, Indiana, another basketball hotbed. Washington interviewed for the Anderson head coaching job this past spring, but wasn’t a finalist. The mother of one of the transferred players was a big supporter of Washington to get the Anderson job, but when he didn’t, that’s when the two players moved from Anderson to Indianapolis. Mom says that wasn’t why they moved..the IHSAA says differently.

While the players’ case will go before a Department of Education review panel, Washington remains suspended while his Attucks’ team is 9-2 and eighth in the state. Parents have delivered petitions to Attucks’ administrators, claiming his punishment is excessive. In the meantime, Washington has been transferred to another high school as a teacher only, and two student-athletes have their basketball careers hanging in the balance as the grownups try to decide what’s best for them.

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