ALBANY — With Westover High School Principal William Chunn finalizing the punishments for the coach and some members of the school’s basketball team earlier this week, many are pondering the program’s next step.
Late last week, Chunn disciplined seven basketball players as a result of a team bullying incident that happened two weeks ago at a hotel while the team was participating in a basketball camp in Tallahassee, Fla. One player was kicked off the team, while the other six will be punished with five-game suspensions and other stipulations including performing community service. The victim of the bullying transferred to another school.
On Monday, Chunn suspended Westover boys coach Dallis Smith for three games. The principal said in a statement that “Smith did have the proper amount of chaperones as required by the DCSS, but at times the chaperones were not with the students during the trip.”
Dougherty County superintendent Butch Mosley told The Albany Herald on Monday that the players and coaches would serve their suspensions at the start of the 2014 season.
On Tuesday, Smith declined to comment.
“The suspensions will start at the beginning of the 2014 school year and we’ll have players and two assistant coaches,” Chunn said. “And we’ll proceed as usual. Once the players have served their suspensions, they’ll be able to rejoin the team.”
Chunn stressed that Smith has been an excellent coach at Westover and he wasn’t holding the coach accountable for the action of the players on the trip. He said he knew that Smith had stressed to his players to obey the rules before the team departed for the camp, then Smith again addressed that issue when they arrived in Tallahassee.
He said that Smith was not informed of any bullying until after the team had returned from the camp. The allegations were made public by the father of the former team member who has since transferred.
“I still stand behind coach Smith,” Chunn said. “I want to stress that he is not being held accountable for the actions of the students. He had the required amount of chaperones for the hotel and the gymnasium, just not on the bus.”
The Patriots’ 2014-15 basketball schedule was still incomplete Tuesday. Georgia High School Association schools are allowed to play a maximum of 25 regular-season games, but with this being the first year of a new region, Westover will play at least 18 region games. That leaves just seven games with nonregion opponents.
If the Patriots start the season with several region games, the suspensions could put the team in an early hole in the standings. Chunn said that is something the team will have to overcome.
“We’ve just got to move forward and put all this behind us,” he said. “Like I told them, it’s a 25-game regular season and we have the capabilities to bounce back. There is plenty of time to come back and I believe they will.”