If you’re not happy about playing time, don’t play the race card…it’s just plain pathetic

1 Response to “If you’re not happy about playing time, don’t play the race card…it’s just plain pathetic”

  1. February 6, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    HEADLINE: Hassler’s holding up under accusations;

    BYLINE: Keith Groller Of The Morning Call
    Ron Hassler said “it is the most difficult coaching assignment” he’s had in 26 years as a boys basketball coach.

    Hassler was talking about trying to keep his North Penn team together in the aftermath of the tumult of the past week when a group of parents accused him of not giving enough playing time to five African-American players on his squad.

    According to reports from Lansdale-area newspapers, the parent group filed a complaint with the NAACP and also registered complaints with the school’s athletic director and administration. They demanded that Hassler start the five African-American players or they would initiate a boycott.

    Hassler, backed by the North Penn administration, refused and the walkout never happened when it was made clear that any players walking off the court in protest would be permanently off the team.

    It all came to a head last Friday.

    Hassler, the Catasauqua graduate and Lehigh Valley native who forged his coaching career over 24 seasons at Catty, Whitehall and Central Catholic, not only survived the accusations of racism, but actually may have emerged from it in a place of strength considering the outpouring of support he has received from a majority in the community.

    His concern, however, is keeping his team together and not allowing the distractions to derail it. His Knights, relying largely on sophomores and juniors, were 10-8 and in position to qualify for the District One tournament.

    “I’ve got a thick skin, and I’ll be fine,” he said. “We’re moving forward. The key right now is to keep the team together and positive things are starting to happen. We’re just trying to get kids, who have been put on the spot and nearly torn apart, to come back together. They’re all under the microscope. Everybody’s closely watching what they do, everything’s magnified, and that’s a tough way to play. It’s been unfair to them.

    “But the important thing is everybody is treating each other with respect after friendships were tested and nearly split apart. If they can get through this and continue the way they have been playing, they can go pretty far. To be 10-8 with the young team that we have and in the very physical league that we play in, I think these kids have exceeded expectations.”

    Hassler didn’t really want to talk about the accusations that attempted to stain his character after an adult life spent in education and coaching.

    “I don’t feel I have to respond to baseless accusations and would rather not because we need to to put it behind us. I know what we’re all about and what we’re trying to achieve.”

    Hassler looked at it as “a learning window for all involved,” including him.

    “We had a very productive meeting the other night where everybody aired some things out,” he said. “You can always learn how to do things better. As a community and program, we learned some things about communication.

    “For the kids and parents, it also can be a teaching tool for them to learn about handling adversity. When things don’t go your way, you either learn to go forward or you can learn to play the role of a victim and spin your wheels.”

    Hassler said that parental concerns about playing time are not new to him, however, “there’s a right way to go about it” and that wasn’t done here.

    Certainly, the accusations have created a media storm and if people didn’t know who was the head coach at North Penn before last Friday, they do now.

    Hassler appreciates the support he has received from so many, including some surprising sources, and seems to have endured a situation, that, at the very least, has caused some unwanted attention.

    “The people … the kids, parents … have been great,” he said. “But I really wouldn’t have gotten through it without my assistants, especially Jerry Radocha and Bob Gilbert. Without them to bounce things off and offer their encouragement and keep it in perspective, it would have been really difficult.”

    As someone who covered Hassler for much of his 24 years as a head coach in the Lehigh Valley, I’d be the first to admit he was never the warm and cuddly type while around the game. With his wife, Kathy, and his children, yes — but no, not so much with the media or around the court.

    He’d never win a popularity contest among his players and their parents because of his demanding style, and I’m sure a few of the still-disgruntled are going to use this opportunity to get in a few more anonymous shots at him.

    He has never been a “roll out the balls” kind of coach and seldom used a lot of players, and I understand that his system would never be described as fun.

    But I also know this, and that is that no one has ever believed more strongly that there’s a right way and wrong way to play the game.

    If he had seven kids of green and purple-colored skin who played the game Hassler’s way, those are the kids who would play.

    You don’t win 510 games and a bunch of league and district championships by making decisions based on anything but ability.

    Things have also changed greatly since Hassler got into coaching in the early 1980s. Parents are much more demanding, vocal and proactive than they were a generation ago and have more avenues to vent their dissatisfaction.

    “There’s not a basketball team in America right now that doesn’t have at least some parents who are unhappy about their kid’s playing time,” Hassler said. “That’s just the way it is in society. We live in an age of instant gratification. Being a parent, myself, I see their side of it sometimes.”

    However, if you look at the anonymous potshots being taken at coaches all over the Internet — sadly, including the comment section of the Groller’s Corner blog — you have to wonder why anyone would ever want to enter the profession.

    You can only hope that the most dedicated, most principled people who still coach because they can shape lives and teach kids right from wrong still, somehow, persevere. . . .

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