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Chapman Players Aren’t Satisfied With Selection of Interim Coach

Times Staff Writer

Chapman College basketball players say they are unhappy with the selection of Lindsay Strothers as interim basketball coach in the wake of Wednesday’s firing of Coach Kevin Wilson.

The team is expected to meet today to decide what steps to take.

The options that players are considering range from a letter of protest to Jim Doti, the college’s acting president, to a boycott of tonight’s game against Southern California College in the first round of the Doubletree tournament at Chapman.

Team captains Mike Minier, Russ Ortega and Matt Honikel, along with four other players, met at Wilson’s home Wednesday night. The players’ main complaint is about Strothers, who until Wednesday was a first-year assistant for the Chapman women’s basketball team.

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Strothers was an assistant coach with the USC women’s team last season and a high school head coach at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland from 1985-87.

“We like Coach (Wilson) and we feel bad that he’s gone, but there’s not much we can do about that,” said Minier, a Mission Viejo High School graduate. “The main issue is what’s best for the team. It’s not like we don’t like the new coach. It’s just he doesn’t know us or our system.”

Chapman players lobbied for current Panther assistant coach Rich Prospero, who has been involved with the program for the past 3 years as an assistant coach, scout and recruiter.

“It’s impossible for a guy to come in at this date and learn our system,” said freshman forward Rog Middleton, a former Tustin High School star and transfer from the University of Utah. “Rich has been here all along. In America, the assistant coach usually becomes the interim coach in this sort of situation.”

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The team will meet before a tournament brunch today to decide what action to take.

“There are so many things going on right now anything could happen,” said guard Chris Patton, a graduate of Mater Dei. “Everything is happening so fast.”

Minier said that the possibility of a boycott was slim at the moment, but added, “It depends on how people feel tomorrow (Friday). There was a strong feeling toward a boycott last night.”

Middleton, who did not attend the meeting said, “As of yesterday, I heard we were boycotting the tournament.”

Wilson was fired Wednesday afternoon by Athletic Director Walt Bowman. On Oct. 6, Wilson announced his resignation, effective when his contract expired in August.

Wilson was fired after comments in a newspaper article last week, in which he expressed his frustration with his coaching duties at Chapman.

A Chapman official said Thursday that Wilson’s comments were not the only reason. However, he said the comments led to Bowman’s action.

“Walt felt it was becoming a negative situation,” the official said. “Kevin resigned early to help the school make a smooth transition. It wasn’t going smoothly and the student athletes were being affected. Walt felt it was in the best interest of the school and the kids to take action.”

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The players were informed of the decision at a meeting in the president’s dining room after practice. Bowman read the press release about Wilson’s dismissal and announced Strothers would assume the coaching duties.

“Then he left,” Minier said. “He walked out right after telling us the girls’ assistant was the new head coach.”

Minier, Ortega and Honikel approached Bowman after the meeting to ask why Prospero had not been named interim coach.

“He gave us a bunch of reasons, mainly that the other guy (Strothers) had more experience,” Minier said. “He said the guy was better, but he just tried to justify it. It was not the correct decision.

“He (Bowman) said that Rich would be doing 90% of the work. We said that if Rich was going to be doing 90% of the work, why not give him the job.”

Bowman could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday night, the players called Doti to arrange a meeting. According to Minier, Doti said he could not meet with them until Monday because he was leaving town for the weekend.

Doti could not be reached for comment.

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“He said he was standing behind Walt’s decision,” Minier said. “As it stands now, we’ll probably draft a letter. But we’ll vote and act as a team.”


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