“I did not try to cover it up. Their decision to do what they did was and is still a shock to me. I was shocked to see my coach playing in a game. It was disheartening because she was a responsible individual. Maybe I handled it the wrong way by waiting a day, but I was trying to find out why they did what they did, but I got no response. I do not have any hard feelings towards San Gabriel for their decision to let me go because of that. But to say I tried to cover it up, no way. I do not stand for things like that.” — Fired San Gabriel coach Manny Flores
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
Just days after a story published in this newspaper confirming the firings of the entire San Gabriel High School girls basketball program’s coaching staff, Manny Flores, the former head varsity girls basketball coach, responded to allegations in a series of e-mail exchanges that there was an attempt to cover up a freshman coach’s decision to play in a junior varsity girls basketball game last month. Flores did not dispute allegations that Jannie Han, 21, played during a nonleague junior varsity road game Dec. 9 against El Monte, but he did take issue that there was an attempt to cover it up, which led to the firing of Flores, Han and JV girls basketball coach Mark Ho.
“I did not try to cover it up,” Flores wrote. “Their decision to do what they did was and is still a shock to me. I was shocked to see my coach playing in a game. It was disheartening because she was a responsible individual.
“Maybe I handled it the wrong way by waiting a day, but I was trying to find out why they did what they did, but I got no response. I do not have any hard feelings towards San Gabriel for their decision to let me go because of that. But to say I tried to cover it up, no way. I do not stand for things like that.”
San Gabriel principal Jim Schofield confirmed the firings on Monday but would not discuss the details, citing privacy issues. Jennifer White recently was hired to coach the varsity girls basketball team and San Gabriel football coach Keith Jones and assistant football coach Jude Oliva will help coach the junior varsity girls. The school is waiting on fingerprint clearance for its new freshman girls coach.
El Monte junior varsity girls basketball coach Steve Shimada said he couldn’t tell when Han went into the game, which the Lions won, 37-15.
“I was only interested in what we were doing, even though we had the game in hand,” Shimada said. “We tried to figure out who it might have been, but it wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind, that a coach would be playing in a game. I’ve never heard of something like this.”
Flores said he brought the incident to the attention of San Gabriel athletic director Patty Hill and waited a day largely in part to get more information from Han and Ho and because he was unsure how to handle the situation.
“I want to make it clear that I had no say or had any part in their decision to allow what happened,” Flores wrote. “However, I accept responsibility and only because it occurred within my time as head coach.”
Flores, a 1999 Alhambra High graduate who coached the Moors’ JV boys basketball team for two seasons, gave his account about the incident.
“My team had a game right after the JV game,” he wrote. “So as we were entering the gym I was shocked, to say the last, to catch a glimpse of my coach in a uniform and playing in a game. She knew she had made a mistake when she saw me come in, and went straight to the bench to put on a sweatshirt, pretending like nothing happened.
“I wanted to talk to them after their game, but the other coaches had to leave with the team on the bus. Coach Han should have stayed for our game to do our scorebook, but she left with the JV team. I did not hear from her or see her until the meeting with the administration.”
Han did not respond to repeated e-mail requests seeking explanation, nor was she available for questions at her Alhambra home.
Flores said he did not see or hear from Han until a Dec. 14 meeting with Schofield, Hill and assistant principal Scott Mangrum. Mark Ho also was present.
“I knew as soon as I walked in \ their decision was going to be,” Flores wrote. “It was very short and quick. I was simply told that I had been let go along with the other coaches.”
Flores said he has not spoken directly to Han and Ho since their firings.
“Just through texts,” Flores added. “They have apologized, but the damage is done and it cannot be repaired.”
AREA COACHES REACT
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
San Gabriel Valley coaches and athletic directors were in shock and disbelief when they learned San Gabriel High School’s freshman girls basketball coach played in a junior varsity game early last month.
San Gabriel Principal Jim Schofield confirmed Monday that varsity girls basketball coach Manny Flores, junior varsity girls basketball coach Mark Ho and freshman girls basketball coach Jannie Han were fired Dec. 15 after Han played Dec. 9 in a JV nonleague game at El Monte.
“I was shocked to hear what happened and feel for the girls in the program,” Keppel coach Ib Belou said. “I hope that the girls come together and push through this incident and find a way to move forward.
“As for Manny Flores, I did not know him on a personal level, but from the two games I coached against him he was a very kind and respectful person. I have nothing but positive things to say about him since I can only go by how he treated the girls I coach and myself.”
Alhambra girls basketball coach Therese Berner, in her first season with the Moors, said she’s coached basketball 30 years and never has heard of anything like this.
“I guess my question is, `Was winning that important that you would sacrifice the program?’ ” she asked rhetorically. “To me there’s no valid reason, period. I don’t want to pass any judgement but who would benefit from that?”
Schofield learned of the incident the weekend of Dec. 12 through e-mail messages.
“If a situation were to happen here I would act swiftly to remedy the issue,” Maranatha athletic director and baseball coach Brian DeHaan said.
Schofield would not discuss the details, citing privacy issues, but did speak about the severity of such an issue and said if something like that was to happen in a program it would be sending out the exact opposite message.
Tamar Hill, in her 10th year as La Ca ada’s girls basketball coach, echoed Schofield’s statements.
“What we’re trying to teach the kids is ethics,” she said. “The CIF motto is sportsmanship and ethics. What they (the administrator’s swift action) did is exactly what they need to do – uphold the CIF standards and school standards.”
There’s a running joke among coaches that when things go bad they’d like to enter a game and play. That much was evident when speaking with more than several area coaches, but to actually act on the temptation has not crossed anyone’s mind.
“It’s one of those things that as you get older you always kind of joke about in little conversations, telling your kids `I’m sure I can find some eligibility somewhere’ but it’s all meant in a joking way,” Diamond Ranch athletic director Jason Fox said. “I would have never imagined someone actually doing it. I’m still in shock hearing that it actually happened.”
“It’s hard for me to understand why they would have done that and what was the thought process behind it,” El Monte coach Brian Tabatabi said. “It’s unfortunate because the girls work hard and you coach them up and think you’re competing on an even playing field, but to think an opposing coach would treat his own players that way is disappointing.”
The age requirement to be an assistant coach is 18, and 21 to be a head coach in the Pomona Unified School District. Lou Torres, in his 14th year as athletic director at Alhambra, said that’s the general rule, although there’s no specification in job fliers within the Alhambra Unified School District. Torres also said it’s the varsity head coach’s responsibility to look after his assistants.
“When I hire a head coach it’s his responsibility to hire his assistant coaches and it’s also his responsibility to hire someone as competent as possible,” Torres said. “If they do hire someone young they have to be monitored by them and myself.”
It is not known how long Han, 21, played in the junior varsity game, but Manny Flores confirmed catching a glimpse of Han in uniform playing in the game, and when she saw him Han went back to the bench and put on a sweatshirt, “pretending like nothing happened.”
“At that point I would have expected the coach to start coaching the JV team right there and then,” Torres said. “The head coach is responsible for his program and if he had knowledge of that happening then they’re all responsible.”
Flores, in an e-mail, said there were no cover-up attempts.
“Maybe I handled it the wrong way by waiting a day,” he wrote. “But I was trying to find out why they did what they did, but I got no response.”
“The last thing you want to do is make your school look bad,” Fox said. “You have to let your athletic director and administrators know that day. You have to because then it falls back on you.
“You can sit there and say, `I just got wind of this happening today and I wanted to bring it to your attention and I’m looking into it more and I’ll let you know by close of business day tomorrow.’ ”