Women’s Coach Fired in Wake of Allegation : Basketball: Harbor College player alleged that she was punched during practice by Nelson, a former NBA player.
Louie Nelson, who as the fiery coach of the Harbor College women’s basketball team molded the Seahawks into state champions in only four years, was fired Wednesday, nine days after his star guard alleged that Nelson punched her in the face during a practice session, leaving her with a broken nose.
“We are very appreciative of the coaching job that Mr. Nelson has done at Harbor College and regret that it was necessary to make a change,” school President James Heinselman said in announcing the decision.
School officials declined to discuss details of their investigation, which began with Nelson’s suspension Jan. 4, but acknowledged that reports varied greatly as to what exactly took place at a Jan. 2 workout.
“I think it’s safe to say there are various versions of what happened,” said college spokesman Gary Wood. “The decision (to fire Nelson) was not made easily.”
Nelson, a former NBA player who was suspended briefly after a similar allegation by a male player in 1989, has continued to deny the charges through his attorney.
“The young lady’s allegation . . . is simply not true,” said attorney Richard Schwab. “Coach Nelson is very disappointed.”
The incident has divided the defending state champions, whose 18-4 start is the best in school history. Seven players met with Heinselman on Monday, requesting that Nelson be reinstated, while others have sided with his accuser, 19-year-old La Trece Polk, whose family and Nelson are longtime friends.
The 5-foot-3 Polk, who wore a face guard during a game Friday, said this week that if Nelson returned, she would not. Polk’s phone had been disconnected as of Wednesday night, but her uncle, Donald Sullivan, said she was “very pleased” at the news of Nelson’s firing.
Polk, who did not play Wednesday night in an 88-76 victory over Cerritos, said that her altercation with Nelson grew out of a fight between two other players. After Nelson refused to break up the fracas, Polk said, she and the coach exchanged words. Nelson then rushed her, Polk said, striking her in the face and knocking her to the ground.
While Nelson coached the Compton High boys’ team in 1989, a player alleged that the coach knocked him unconscious during a locker-room scuffle. Nelson was reinstated after a 10-day suspension, then resigned at the end of the season. Nelson, known for feverishly pacing the sidelines and sometimes lambasting referees, began the first women’s basketball team at Harbor in a decade in 1989.