ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Gene Allen felt like he’d been hit from behind by a haymaker when he heard the Atlantic City Board of Education decided not to reappoint him for his 16th season as the Vikings boys’ basketball coach on Nov. 20.
“I thought we had already been approved,” Allen recalled Wednesday morning, “so when they told me, it totally blindsided me.
“I was disappointed, and I didn’t know if I really wanted to come back.”
The next morning, 40 students entered his classroom to show their support, some with tears in their eyes. That’s when Allen, who’s led the program to three Group 4 state championships during his tenure, realized after all the halftime speeches he’d delivered – his team facing a deficit, needing to fight its way back – he would’ve been a hypocrite not to do the same.
So on Tuesday, Allen filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court against the Atlantic City Board of Education in an attempt to get his job back.
“You stand up for what you believe in and defend your rights if you think you’ve been done wrong,” Allen said of his decision to fight for his job, arguing the board violated due process when it didn’t notify him his position would be discussed when he wasn’t reappointed. “The one thing I’ve always stressed since basically Day 1 is that at any moment anybody’s expendable. Therefore, you give everything you have because you never know when it can be taken from you. That’s been our mantra for a while, so I also explained to the kids this is what I’m talking about when talking about expendability.”