|Panthers Under Fire|
That’s why last night’s 107-2 win over Indianapolis Arlington was so surprising -- slap across the face from an unseen hand surprising.
I have known Coach Winters only casually as a high school basketball fan knows a coach. I’ve seen his teams play just about twice a year now for the last 16 years. They are always well-coached and classy. He has put together an excellent program and maintained it at such a level that Coach Winters was an Indiana All-Stars Assistant Coach in 2011. Those honors don’t come around unless you have achieved at a high level for many years.
Those things should not be forgotten just because his team beat another team, 107-2.
Unfortunately, all we are hearing today is the uproar over Coach Winters’ Lady Panthers beating a rebuilding Arlington team. Arlington had no business on that floor against that team, and someone at Arlington had to see that. Arlington was taken over by the State of Indiana this past year and put under the control of a charter school provider.
There are over 380 members of the IHSAA as well as some teams that play basketball that aren’t. Bloomington South is one of the 15 or 20 best programs this year in the biggest class, 4A. Arlington is one of the worst in the smallest class, 1A. It doesn’t take a diehard sports fan to see it was going to be a mismatch.
From watching him coach and seeing his teams play over the years, I can’t imagine that Coach Winters, a man who I’ve rarely heard raise his voice at a player or an official, set out to embarrass anyone. I’m sure things snowballed and then bam. It’s 107-2.
Of course, in this 24/7 media environment, it’s all a whirlwind and things get crazy. People are calling for his head all over social media. So, we should simply fire him for what? Being too successful? It’s not like his girls were rubbing this loss in. Coach Ebony Jackson of Arlington told Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star that she respects and still respects Winters and his program. Whether or not they are successful on the year, the Arlington girls are better because they played the game. They learned about teamwork, coming together, and competing. They took a big loss, but it’s certainly not the first in their lives and I doubt it will set them up for failure later in life. Let’s not blow this more out of proportion.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sit here and say that Coach Winters couldn’t have done things differently. In hindsight, I’m sure he might wish he handled this game differently. I did, however, drop him an e-mail in support today. Arlington, however, ultimately decided to play this home game, so don't blame Coach Winters for everything.
No one meant for this to happen, but it happened. Let both teams move on from this with lessons learned. That’s what high school sports are, for goodness sakes. They are another opportunity to learn life lessons.
Get ready for the knee jerk mercy rule talk. Listen, do whatever you like, but don't simply call for a man to be fired because you fail to look at his entire body of work as a coach and choose to overlook the reason the game was played at all. Let's just move on, please.