Less than 30 minutes after Phil Washington was told he was no longer the boys basketball coach at Crispus Attucks High School, the phone calls and text messages came pouring in.
Soon, too, did the tears.
Washington, 32, was removed as coach at Attucks in a late afternoon meeting at the Indianapolis Public Schools headquarters and assigned to another IPS school as a teacher.
The decision by IPS came on the heels of an investigation by the Indiana High School Athletic Association into the transfer of former Anderson High School students Zac Owens, a junior, and sophomore Keane “Jamal” Harris. Both were ruled ineligible for athletics after the IHSAA determined the pair had transferred to Attucks for athletic reasons.
On Dec. 10, the IHSAA review committee upheld the original decision. IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said Washington violated the IHSAA’s undue influence rules by having Owens and Harris play on the team in the summer before they were enrolled at Attucks.
A week later, on Dec. 17, Washington was suspended – with pay – as a teacher and coach for “improper behavior as an athletic coach,” prohibited from having any contact with students or staff at the school. On Friday, Washington was told he was being reassigned to Arlington as an English teacher, effective Monday.
It was a stunning turn of events, coming just 10 months after Washington had been named City Coach of the Year for leading Attucks to a 19-6 record and into a Class 2A regional final. Washington was 49-28 in three-plus seasons and led Attucks to its first sectional titles – in 2014 and ’15 – since 1973.
Washington said he would pursue reinstatement through legal channels.
“I’m going to fight for what I believe in,” he said. “I put my life into that job. I’m going to try to get my job that I earned.”
Many of the phone calls and texts Washington received Friday came from current players, who were preparing to leave for a game at Greenwood Christian as their former coach was meeting at the IPS office.