'Crybaby' Coach May Shed A Tear

Closeup of the "Crybaby Award" presented to 13-year-old Terrence Philo Jr. (his name is misspelled on the plaque) by his basketball coaches at Pleasantville (N.J.) Middle School on April 24, 2004. The school board voted May 4, 2004, to fire the head coach for humiliating Philo...but there is some question about whether it has legal authority to do so. AP

A basketball coach will be ordered to make a public apology, banned from coaching and sent to sensitivity training for giving a 13-year-old player a "Crybaby Award" at a season-ending banquet, officials said Wednesday.

Whether he loses his job remains to be seen.

James Guillen, 24, a third-year special education teacher at the Pleasantville Middle School, had a trophy made up showing an infant atop a pedestal, with a plaque bearing the inscription of player Terrence Philo Jr. and the words "Crybaby Award."

Terrence was spelled "Terrance."

After summoning the boy to attend the April 24 banquet, Guillen gave him the trophy, humiliating the boy in front of about 25 teammates and parents.

On Tuesday, the Pleasantville Board of Education voted to fire Guillen, rejecting Schools Superintendent Edwin Coyle's recommendation for lighter sanctions.

The nine-member board did so against the advice of its own attorney, who said state law mandates that hiring and firing recommendations come from the superintendent, not board members.

As a result, the vote to dismiss Guillen wasn't valid, according to Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association.

"It's not binding. It's not proper procedure," Belluscio said.

Coyle, who said dismissal would be too severe a punishment, said he would ban Guillen from ever coaching in Pleasantville schools and order the sensitivity training and public apology.

In addition, Guillen will be ordered to hold the banquet again and give Philo the trophy other players received. A veteran teacher will be assigned to mentor Guillen, Coyle said.

Coyle said he would ask the board a second time to authorize a five-day suspension without pay and the forfeiture of a $3,000 pay raise due Guillen.

Others want stiffer penalties.

"He should be fired," said Gina Jones, 43, of Pleasantville, a parent who attended Tuesday night's meeting. "You should just have better sense. He needs to publicly apologize and take some of the burden off little Terrence."

The boy's father, Terrence Philo, said he would leave the penalty to school officials.

"I just want what's right. I want my son to have a trophy and certificate like everyone else got. No less, no more," he said.

Guillen, who has yet to speak publicly about the incident, remains on the job as a special education teacher at Pleasantville Middle School.

A man who coached in a summer league in which Guillen played as a teenager defended him before the school board, saying the crybaby term was used to motivate players.

"'Crybaby' means you argue too much and to focus more on your play. It has to be taken in context," said Vernon Walker, 40. But he said what Guillen did showed poor judgment.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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