Dunbar's Brown defends Smith firing Academic program is principal's concern


Dunbar principal Charlotte Brown yesterday defended her surprising dismissal of boys basketball coach Paul Smith, who led the Poets to three state titles in his three seasons at the school.

Brown, who began advertising for Smith's position on July 1, notified Smith of her intentions in a letter he confirmed receiving on Aug. 9, the day before Brown began interviewing other candidates.

Smith, who says he wants to avoid any stigma the firing might cause, was 69-10 at Dunbar. Last season's team returned just one starter but won 17 of its final 19 games after a 4-4 start.

"Dunbar athletics are not just about winning. And during the interview and hiring process, I make perfectly clear what my expectations of coaches are," said Brown, who could name a replacement this week. "I want someone who supports our academic program, given the amount of time our athletes spend in competition and practice."

Among the concerns in Brown's letter to Smith, which he said detailed "10 areas of concern," were: players not supporting the academic enhancement program (which includes SAT preparatory courses and study hall) and failure to promote spirit and pride, particularly in respect to material submitted for publication that was incomplete.

Brown referred to a team picture as showing the players "in disarray." But Smith said the photo, which appeared in a tournament program, was taken against his wishes during halftime of a game.

Smith, who had coached for 16 years at McDonogh, said another issue may have arisen in April, when just four players accompanied him to the House of Delegates and the state Senate to be honored for winning the state title in March.

Smith said his team was told two weeks before the scheduled trip to "dress appropriately, which simply meant a shirt and tie." Athletic director Gail Robinson reiterated his wishes four days before the trip, Smith said.

However, of the nine players who showed up, only four wore a shirt and tie, "So I took the four," Smith said.

But Brown's concerns also included what she termed Smith's lack of interaction with athletes in the college decision-making process and a general lack of communication with players' parents.

Ron Belinko, outgoing president of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, said state rules mandate that all coaching assignments be subject to annual review, and "it's not unusual or unreasonable for a principal to bring up those responsibilities that go beyond the X's and O's of coaching."

Brown said: "I meet with the coaches every year, and I met with Paul in particular about three or four times."

Hired in the wake of a school board investigation into charges that former coach Pete Pompey had misused athletic funds, Smith said he worked hard to project a positive image in the community.

Smith said he hoped not necessarily to win back his job, but to clear his name of the "implied lack of ethics" in Brown's letter. Asked if that meant legal action, Smith declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Brown continues the process of finding Smith's replacement and sources close to the interviewing process sayDouglass' Lynn Badham is the leading candidate.

Badham was a seven-year assistant to then-Dunbar coach Bob Wade, winning five JV championships. Others interviewed were: Southern-Baltimore's Meredith Smith, former Dunbar and Maryland standout Ernie Graham and JV coaches Kevin Parsons (Dunbar) and Ollie Matson (Randallstown).

Pub Date: 8/20/96

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