Lincoln Park High School’s boys basketball team is officially out of the Chicago Public League playoffs after forfeiting its first-round game Tuesday, and those hoping the team might get reinstated in time for the state playoffs are unlikely to get any relief from Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The Lions forfeited their game against Perspectives-MSA days after the district suspended their season because of allegations that included misconduct during a team trip to Detroit near the end of December. CPS suspended the team’s head coach, Pat Gordon, in early January. After further investigation uncovered several more serious allegations, the district said it reassigned interim coach Donovan Robinson and fired interim principal John Thuet and assistant principal Michelle Brumfield.
Lightfoot, who was in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, told the Sun-Times she doesn’t “have any reason to believe that they’re going” to reinstate the team’s season. “There’s no coaches, so it’s hard for the team to go forward,” the mayor said.
Technically any Lincoln Park staff members with the proper coaching certifications could step in to coach the team if the suspension was lifted. But a CPS spokesman said Tuesday the decision to suspend the remainder of the season was based on serious allegations that went beyond concern about coaches.
“As we’ve said, there are allegations of student misconduct and adult misconduct,” CPS spokesman Michael Passman said. “The season would not be suspended if the district was only looking at adult misconduct.”
CPS has yet to get into specifics about the allegations that led to the suspensions and firings, only broadly describing the type of alleged misconduct. District officials are worried that going into deeper detail could subject any involved students to further trauma, a source said.
CPS officials said at a meeting with parents and students Monday night that there are multiple investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct, retaliation against witnesses, lying to families and financial mismanagement of the athletics program.
In addition to allegations against the boys team, the school is investigating the girls basketball team — the team’s coach was removed from the school for alleged improper contact with a player on the girls team — and a separate allegation of sexual misconduct at the school involving two students not related to the teams.
Lightfoot said “the information that was provided by CPS personnel at the town hall last night was pretty fulsome.”
“Based on the information I was provided, I have confidence that the CPS personnel took the right steps to make sure that we had a safe, healthy school environment for young people,” Lightfoot said.
Playoff seeding coming up
The Illinois High School Association will seed the state playoffs on Feb. 18. If Lincoln Park’s boys basketball team isn’t included in the field it would be difficult for the team to be added after the fact, barring the type of legal injunction that allowed the Public League cross-country teams back into the state tournament in November after the Chicago Teachers Union strike.
Lincoln Park has already been removed from a shootout in Aurora it was scheduled to play in this weekend. The Lions’ only remaining scheduled regular season game is Feb. 21 against Walfdorf.
Perspectives-MSA coach Waybon McConnell is disappointed his team won’t get a chance to face Lincoln Park on Tuesday. Lincoln Park is 19-3, finished second in the Red-North/West and is regarded as one of the best teams in the state.
“We really wanted to compete,” McConnell said. “This was the first time Perspectives-MSA has ever made the Red Division city playoffs. My players, coaches, and I were excited to be able to go into my alma mater where I played basketball and coach against a mentor [Lincoln Park coach Pat Gordon].
“I know a few kids and parents at Lincoln Park and they’re heartbroken. It’s not the way as a coach I ever want to win a game but it seems this is the outcome. I hope the entire Lincoln Park High School community can overcome this situation because it’s truly a phenomenal institution academically and athletically.”
Perspectives will face the Clark vs. Kenwood winner in the second round of the playoffs on Thursday.