Questions remain after report on N.J. basketball scandal yields three firings, two suspensions

Paterson Eastside coach Juan Griles (Photo: Mitsu Yasukawa/Bergen Record)

Questions remain after report on N.J. basketball scandal yields three firings, two suspensions

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Questions remain after report on N.J. basketball scandal yields three firings, two suspensions

A taxpayer-funded report into the scandal that has rocked Paterson (N.J.) Eastside has led to three firings, two suspensions and a principal’s early retirement. Still, according to NJ.com, the report largely minimizes the actions of the key figures, even referring to the ousted boys basketball coach as a “humanitarian.”

On Wednesday night, previously suspended boys basketball coach Juan Griles was fired by the Paterson Board of Education along with assistant coach Alberto Maldonado. Also fired was athletic director Gregory Cooper, while girls basketball coach Ray Lyde Jr. was suspended for at least one year. Secretary Patty Granados was also fired from her part-time work, while Eastside principal Karen Johnson will retire. There is no clear tie between Johnson’s retirement and the 250-page report.

The report, commissioned shortly after the first story in a months-long NJ.com investigation, found disregard for Paterson and New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) procedures for bringing new students into the school.

While the 250-page report authored by former New Jersey Supreme Court justice John Wallace did bring clarification, though, it at least partially cleared the coaches and other officials of wrongdoing despite the enrollment of at least a dozen international and overseas players since 2011. Per NJ.com, Wallace’s report focuses on mainly the events of the past year while not addressing the roles Griles and Lyde Jr. played in bringing players to the school the previous four years.

“That’s pathetic,” N.J. State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) told NJ.com. “It was human trafficking at its worst. They used them for basketball for their own self-interests. It is what it is and it should have been called what it is. And I think the taxpayers of the state or city should ask for a refund.”

Here are some bullet points provided by NJ.com of the report, which was divided into a boys section, a girls section, and a section devoted to players’ transcripts:

  • Of the 29 interviews conducted for the investigations into the boys and girls teams, 28 were school-district employees and one was a current student. Wallace did not interview any of the teachers involved in assisting the international players, former players for either team or anyone who helped steer the players to Paterson.
  • Five boys basketball players were registered outside the proper protocol for regular students by Griles, the boys team coach. That led Granados to make copies of student transcripts and keep them in her desk because she feared some of the documents might disappear.
  • The crude alteration of one student’s transcript “may well be a criminal offense,” and the report recommends that the school district refer the matter to authorities. However, Wallace found no evidence that anyone in Paterson altered the transcript. It wasn’t clear in Wallace’s report who or how the documents had been altered.
  • Documentation as basic as keeping scorebooks and submitting required forms to the state athletic association for both the girls and boys teams was not handled correctly. The girls scorebook from the 2015-16 season vanished, and the boys varsity scorebook “was not properly kept,” the report says.
  • Johnson was recommended for disciplinary action, but state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans said she will retire at the end of the school year. The principal has worked in the district for nearly 38 years and makes $152,361, according to public records.

With many questions still lingering, the people thought to be the chief parties involved in harboring student-athletes for athletic gain won’t be working at the school for the near future. Still, the welfare of the players and families involved should still be the chief concern. One can surmise that there will be more to come on this story.

You can read the entirety of NJ.com’s in-depth story on the scandal here.

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