Phil Washington still looks like the coach at Crispus Attucks. Last week, he walked into a north-side coffee shop wearing a gray sweatsuit with gold and green trim with a Tigers logo on his chest.
Washington, 32, hasn’t given up on the idea of coaching boys basketball again at Attucks. That’s what he wants. Attucks principal Lauren Franklin told Washington at the end of March that he’s free to apply for the position and that the school is open to considering him again.
“I put a lot into Attucks, and that’s where I desire to be,” Washington said. “(But) other opportunities are coming open. If I’m not welcome back at Attucks, then I’ll pursue those.”
Washington was into his fourth season at Attucks when Indianapolis Public Schools suspended with pay in December as a teacher and coach for “improper behavior as an athletic coach” after the Indiana High School Athletic Association had ruled that former Anderson High School students Zac Owens and Keane “Jamal” Harris had played for Attucks during the summer and at open gym before they were enrolled.
On Jan. 9, Washington was called into the IPS Education Services Center and told he’d been reassigned to Arlington as an English teacher. Attucks, guilty of “undue influence” in the case of Owens and Harris, had been given two choices by the IHSAA: Suspend Washington for the season or suspend the team from the state tournament.
Victor Bush, a member of the IHSAA board of directors, came out in vocal support of Washington two weeks later. He accused IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox of treating Washington “in an unfair manner” and failing to consider that Owens and Harris were believed to be enrolled — by the school, Washington and the families — when they played over the summer.
Washington, who was the City’s Coach of the Year in 2014-15, said he isn’t bitter over the situation. The time away from coaching has allowed him to spend more time with his wife, Jacquelyn, and two young kids at home in Anderson. He said his reassignment to Arlington has also allowed him to focus on becoming a better teacher.
“I’ve had a chance to enjoy a lot of things that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I was coaching during the season,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason.”
But there is no doubt that Washington wants to get back into coaching. If not at Attucks, then elsewhere. His hometown, Anderson, has an opening again. Last year, Washington applied but was not one of the finalists. Anderson hired former Purdue guard Ryne Smith, who resigned after a 3-20 season.
Washington said he first wants to see what happens with Attucks before pursing anything else. His former assistant, Mel Baird IV, led the Tigers the remainder of the season. Attucks finished 19-6 and lost in a 3A sectional final to Brebeuf Jesuit after winning back-to-back 2A sectional titles.
“I’ve learned that you have to have everything together and run a tight ship,” Washington said when asked what he’s taken from the last four months. “Regardless of whatever mistakes were made by myself or others, you have to grow from it.”
Washington attended the state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse a week-and-a-half ago. His vision of holding a championship trophy for Attucks remains vivid.
“I want to be on that stage for Attucks,” he said. “If that’s not God’s plan, then it’ll be somewhere else. That’s my drive and my vision. I want to hold that trophy for Attucks, though, and bring that tradition all the way back.”
• Lawrence Central senior guard Mekhi Biffle, a third team selection to the ALL-USA Central Indiana Super Team, plans to have a college decision made by the end of April. The 6-2 Biffle, who averaged 16.7 points and 6.1 rebounds and teamed with Kyle Guy to help the Bears to a 19-7 record, is considering Division II University of Indianapolis, Southern Indiana, Tampa (Fla.) and Saginaw Valley State (Mich.).
Biffle plans to visit Saginaw Valley State April 13-15 and Tampa April 20-22.
• Fishers senior forward Lance Dollison has committed to Division II Grand Valley State. Dollison averaged 16.1 points a game as a senior. Grand Valley State graduates three of its top five scorers from a 18-11 team.
• Marion senior Reggie Jones, who helped Marion to the Class 3A state title, has committed to Western Michigan. The 6-6 Jones averaged 16.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists as a senior. He was committed briefly to New Orleans before reopening his recruitment.
• Indiana fans will get a chance to see a pair of out-of-state recruits in the Derby Classic at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky., on April 15.
Curtis Jones (Highland Springs, Va.) and De’Ron Davis (Aurora, Colo.) are included on the 18-player roster released Tuesday. Cathedral guard Eron Gordon (undecided) and Southport’s Joey Brunk (Butler) will also participate.
The players will also participate in the Horseshoe Foundation Night of the Future Stars on April 14 at New Albany High School. Admission to Thursday’s event, which will include a slam dunk, 2-on-2 and 3-point shooting competition, is free with the purchase of a ticket to the game.
New Albany coach Jim Shannon will lead one of the all-star teams.
Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Tickets are on sale at ticketmaster.com or (800) 745-3000, or the Freedom Hall box office at (502) 367-5144.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.