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Hutton: Politics cost Gary another good coach

LisSchreiber/Post-Tribune Gary Wirt head coach Omar Vasquez laughs as he coaches final minute their regional semifinal wagainst Western Plymouth High

Lisa Schreiber/Post-Tribune Gary Wirt head coach Omar Vasquez laughs as he coaches in the final minute of their regional semifinal win against Western at Plymouth High School in Plymouth Saturday, March 10, 2007.

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Updated: December 1, 2012 4:50PM



Ah, another good coach in Gary gets wacked for reasons that are inexplicable, unfortunate and ultimately bad for the kids.

But since when did the kids really matter in the vortex of swirling, vengeful politics that hang over the school system like a rotten, permanent stench?

You always feel bad for the good guys and Omar Vasquez is one of the good guys. He was dedicated and committed — a no nonsense coach who demanded discipline from his players.

Vasquez, the former Wirt boys coach who took over as the girls basketball coach at Lew Wallace last year when no one — and I mean no one — else wanted it, was served his good bye papers in the strangest of ways Monday after practice.

Andrew Green, the assistant principal and a classy guy who Vasquez had known for 30 years, intercepted him as he was leaving the gym and told him he was no longer coach.

That was it. He was done.

There were no real explanation except a vague one that he hadn’t been approved by the board, which as Bill Clinton might say, would take some real “stones” not to have a basketball coach approved a week into the season.

In fact, on Oct. 10, our news reporter who covers the Gary School Board, sent an e-mail to me saying that Vasquez and boys basketball coach Melvin Yancey were rehired in the annual coaching carousel that takes up needless time and energy for a board that is already strapped for resources.

Well, Vasquez, who coached the boys at Wirt for 21 seasons, knows it has nothing really to do with board approval.

It has something to do with something else and he has his suspicions. He got a strange call a couple of weeks ago when someone from downtown (the school corporation) asked if he was coaching someone else.

Indeed, he was. Vasquez is a volleyball coach for Westville. The job didn’t at all interfere with his duties as the Wallace basketball coach and he told the human resources person that.

He figured that was the end of the conversation since there is no rule against coaching another sport essentially out of season for another school.

The whole situation got a little weirder when two volunteer coaches were involuntarily recruited to be put on Vasquez’s staff to “help out.” That came after his freshman coach, who led the team to an undefeated season, was canned because she went to work for Roosevelt.

It all culminated in his dismissal on Monday.

“That is really picky to come up with something like that as the trump card,” Vasquez said of him working at his second job.

It could also be due to a lawsuit he has filed against the school system for failing to follow the contract for hiring coaches in the system when other jobs, like the West Side boys basketball one, opened up several years ago. But that seems strange since the suit was already filed when he scored the Lew Wallace job.

Vasquez blames city athletic director Earl Smith for orchestrating his firing. He has heard that the Hornets, under Smith’s direction, will bring back Angela Hamblin as coach. He was particularly irritated because he had worked hard last year at building rapport with the kids while cleaning out some of the dead wood.

He felt like this year’s team was going to be pretty good. His eighth grade team only lost three games and he had played mostly underclassmen on the varsity last year.

“Someone is going to be getting a nice slice of cheesecake,” he said.

For now, that someone is Vasquez’s top assistant, Ronald Hearns, who coached the junior varsity team last year. Herns had to carry the unfortunate weight around of being told on Thursday — four days before Vasquez was actually let go — that he was going to be asked to stay as an interim head coach. Hearns has no idea how long it will last or if he will be considered for the head job.

“It’s just strange,” Hearns said.

Yes it is, but it certainly isn’t unusual anymore — at least not in Gary.



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