By Steve Williams
Austin-East High School’s boys basketball team will be joined by Gibbs’ team for some community service work at the Love Kitchen on Martin Luther King Avenue after school Thursday (Aug. 16), said A-E Head Coach Marcus Stanton Friday.
By then, the Roadrunners and the Chattanooga Brainerd team will know where they stand as far as their post-season status for the 2018-19 season.
Austin-East Principal Nathan Langlois, Athletic Director Alvin Armstead and Coach Stanton will travel to Hermitage today (Aug. 13) to attend a meeting of the TSSAA Board of Control, which will rule on whether to uphold or cancel the second year of a 2-year post-season ban placed on the A-E and Brainerd boys basketball programs for being involved in a “brawl” during their game at Brainerd on Jan. 27.
Back in March at the boys’ state basketball tournament, TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress sounded confident that A-E and Brainerd would turn the negative into a positive.
“It looks like we’re going to take what was a very unfortunate incident, and in the long run, it’s going to be a positive,” said Childress. “I have all the faith that those administrators at Austin-East as well as Brainerd are going to do exactly what they outlined for the Board that said what they were going to do. And that would be a positive.
“It’s about teaching young people that they’re going to experience struggles in their life, but you can always turn a negative into a positive if you work at it,” continued Childress.
“Not only will it be something that they can be proud of in their own communities and their own athletic programs, but it will be a footprint as we go forward in the (TSSAA) organization.”
Stanton and Brainerd Coach Levar Brown kept in communication with each other after the incident, which reportedly was made worse by spectators coming on the floor and getting involved.
After the Board of Control handed down the initial fines and sanctions, it denied the two schools’ appeals at a February hearing but said it would allow the two schools a chance to take action to improve sportsmanship in their programs and among their fans and reconsider the remaining sanctions.
Austin-East gave the Board of Control “12 steps” it planned to take for creating good sportsmanship, recalled Stanton.
A-E also started new community service by planning to help and work with the Love Kitchen, a popular social services organization that is located close to the school’s campus in East Knoxville.
The Love Kitchen provides meals, clothing and emergency food packages to homebound, homeless and unemployed persons.
The basketball team made its first trip to the Love Kitchen April 23. Many others at the school also voiced their desire to pitch in and it looks like it’s shaping up to become a year-round good will project.
“We’ve been to the Love Kitchen a couple of times handing out food to locals since our first trip there in April when we did some cooking and packed boxes,” said Stanton.
Austin-East held a Basketball Camp / Sportsmanship Clinic May 12. Brainerd’s team came to Knoxville and assisted. Stanton and Brown spoke about the incident involving their teams that forced the game to be called off and resulted in the TSSAA handing out fines in addition to the 2-year ban from post-season play for the schools’ boys teams.
A Love Kitchen “food can drive” was held in connection with the camp and clinic. And Knoxville’s Scarecrow Foundation was involved. It is an organization to “Help End Hunger in America,” and has raised money, awareness and volunteers for the Love Kitchen in the past with its best known event – the Gator Hator Week prior to the annual Tennessee vs. Florida football game.
“They (the Scarecrow Foundation) have never had a high school as a partner to work with,” said Stanton. Since then, Austin-East has formed a Scarecrow Foundation school organization and Kariah Cook is president.
When Brainerd held its camp and sportsmanship clinic June 2, the A-E team made the trip to Chattanooga to assist.
Stanton added that A-E has entered a three-year contract with Positive Coaching Alliance, which will give tips to all athletic teams in the school plus parents and fans in the community on establishing good sportsmanship.
“We’re just hoping for the best now,” said Stanton, regarding the TSSAA Board of Control’s upcoming decision. “We did all we said we would do and more.”