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A School for Scandal
Alexander Wolff
February 26, 2001
Take a championship high school team, an NBA-ready 7-footer, a coach accused of molestation, a secretive summer-league operator and a community desperate for a winner, and you've got all the ingredients for...
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February 26, 2001

A School For Scandal

Take a championship high school team, an NBA-ready 7-footer, a coach accused of molestation, a secretive summer-league operator and a community desperate for a winner, and you've got all the ingredients for...

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"I've been a professional since I was 13 years old," he says. "I'm not saying it's Pat's fault, but if you look at me, Chris, Olujimi, Schea, Keilon, we were all blue-chippers, but you corrupt our minds and we're thinking only about money. It was hard for people to coach us. We went through years where we could do whatever we wanted, and then we were supposed to go to college and change? If you're unlucky enough to have been with Pat since you were 10, you're used to a lifestyle that requires you spend money, have a car, have the shoes and the jerseys.

"If Schea had made it to the NBA, Pat would have felt like Schea owed him something. Tyson will be that way. You see what kind of car Tyson drives. I'll leave it at that."

THE EDUCATOR

Ernie Carr coached at Dominguez—coached Russell Otis, in fact, whom he chose in 1987 to succeed him—when high school was still high school. "We might have had a little gear," says Carr, who's now an administrator for the Compton school district. "But it was a beg. We'd do fundraisers, go to the PTA."

Carr took his '84-85 Dominguez team to the CIF Southern Section 4A final, in which the Dons lost to Glendale. In that Glendale team he saw a last stand of sorts: "It was a team of kids from the same area who grew up together. You don't see that anymore—kids going to the same elementary and middle schools, playing on the same traveling team, staying together through senior year. I wouldn't want to coach high school today."

Under CIF rules, interdistrict permits and open enrollment rules now allow kids to show up for classes in Compton and be eligible immediately for any school sport. "Nowadays, public schools pick kids like apples off a tree," Carr says. "You can live in Death Valley, way out in the desert, and go to Dominguez, because the rules say you can. Choice and vouchers are the rage, and the CIF feels it has to stay ahead of the curve politically. It's afraid some parent will say, 'Who's telling me my child can't have a comprehensive high school experience anywhere I want, athletics included?' If you're behind the times, parents will litigate."

The CIF used to have four divisions, and schools played for a title within each. Now the CIF has added an additional division and broken Southern Section schools into A and AA classifications. So in the L.A. area, teams that once played for four possible titles now play for 10. "With more [titles] to play for," Carr says, "the thirst is even greater for coaches to find ways to improve."

One way is to recruit. CIF rules don't permit it, but so many coaches do so anyway that the two months between the end of the high school season and May 15, the dead-line for students to apply to transfer under open enrollment, have become an annual bazaar. "You've got spring leagues, and parents all looking for that pot of gold—a college scholarship, gear, the NBA," Carr says. "I know Russell was concerned that Tyson might leave [for another school] after his freshman and sophomore years.

"Tyson didn't grow up a Dominguez kid. He grew up a Nike kid with Pat Barrett. Then it became a matter of where they would send him. The traveling-team coach is the conduit. As a high school coach, what do you do? Do you say you don't want Tyson Chandler? When the rules allow it?"

The shame is that by Carr's reckoning, Tyson would get a great deal out of college. "He enjoys high school," Carr says. "I see him on the sideline at a Dominguez football game, slapping the players' helmets and tossing a ball around. It's hard to imagine him a year from now, going through the preseason and 82-game grind, having to work."

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