Punishment of basketball coach divides Sun Valley Poly

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider

The top two athletic administrators at Sun Valley Poly High have resigned over the school’s handling of a coach suspension.

Kim McEwen, Poly’s athletic director for 20 years, stepped down because she felt a penalty imposed on boys’ basketball Coach Alan Woskanian for breaking rules was not enough.

Woskanian was suspended for six games after he used an ineligible player. That player participated in a game while wearing another player’s uniform and using a different name, City Section Commissioner John Aguirre said. The suspension was imposed by Ari Bennett, Poly’s principal.

"Kim is an institution at Poly. I want her to stay on as athletic director,” Bennett said. “I'm disappointed she's stepping down."

McEwen is well respected on the Poly campus and was a longtime member of the City Section rules committee, which meted out punishment against programs for rules violations.

Toby Bachenheimer, an assistant athletic director at Poly for 15 years, also resigned – in support of McEwen, she said.

Reached by phone Wednesday, McEwen declined to comment, as did Woskanian.

The situation prompted an exchange between Bennett and Ethel Matlen, advisor of the school newspaper “The Optimist,” who told the Los Angeles Times she decided to “kill” a story examining McEwen’s resignation when the principal complained.

Matlen said Bennett sent her a text saying, “It’s not appropriate to investigate other students or for students to investigate employees. If there’s an allegation of something, it should be reported to an administrator. It’s an administrator’s job to investigate.”

Bennett is the publisher of the school newspaper in his role as principal.

Matlen said she had assigned the story because McEwen was “the face of Poly.”

“When a 20-year athletic director resigns in the middle of the season, it's going to be something big,” Matlen said. “I wanted the school to know this happened."

Bennett said his complaint to Matlen involved summoning students during class time. He said he did not tell Matlen to kill a story.

"They can say Kim resigned, because that’s what happened," he said. "I don't understand the concept of the school newspaper being used to investigate personnel matters. I've been a long supporter of the Optimist. They can report on any issue.”

Bennett is a member of the City Section's Executive Committee. Last week, he was on the appeals panel that overturned a decision by Aguirre and reinstated the Narbonne girls' basketball team after it had been removed from playoff contention because players wore pink numbers and letters on their jerseys during a game in violation of City Section rules.

Twitter:@LATSondheimer

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