Essay: Coach Suspends His Own Players

     Context:  Sometimes coaches are faced with tough decisions concerning their players.  Coaches are responsible for many different aspects within their teams and exactly how they handle different circumstances can set them apart from one another.


     Task:  Read the excerpt from Chris Ballard’s March 2014 article from Sports Illustrated titled, “How one coach took a stand, and made a statement at Gunderson High”  Using the information from this text to support your answer, write an argumentative essay responding to the prompt below.  Your essay may be typed and handed in or your essay may be emailed to me at  That applies for both my classes and Mr. Nazario's classes.


Prompt:  Do you feel Coach Allen had valid reasons for suspending several players on his team, and were his actions necessary?  Take into account the evidence provided in the text as well as your personal opinion of how “off-court” behaviors can affect players on a scholastic team.



In your essay, be sure to

  • establish a precise and credible position that responds appropriately to the prompt.

  • explain your position with claim(s), reasons, and evidence from the texts.

  • analyze explicit ideas/information from texts and interpret the authors’ meaning and purpose.

  • refer to sources when appropriate.

  • discuss and respond to counterclaim(s) or alternate claims and/or evidence.

  • represent content from reading materials accurately.

  • order ideas and information within and across paragraphs and use

  • appropriate transitional words/phrases in a way that allows the audience to follow the argument.

  • include a conclusion that supports the position.

  • use language and tone appropriate to the audience and purpose.

    • demonstrate a command of standard English conventions.



“How one coach took a stand, and made a statement at Gunderson High”,

               by Chris Ballard


Ryan Tran was 13 the first time he saw Coach Carter on cable at his home in San

Jose. He remembers watching as Carter, played by Samuel L. Jackson, locked his

Richmond (Calif.) High basketball team out of the gym and threatened to cancel

the season if the players didn’t improve their grades. I bet my dad loves this

movie, Ryan thought, for his parents stressed discipline and academics. Ryan

never imagined something similar happening to him, though. Until it did.


It was a Friday night nine days before Christmas 2011, and San Jose’s Gunderson

High had just lost ugly at Los Gatos: turnovers, bad shots, sloppy defense,

one-on-one moves. Gunderson coach Mike Allen stood in the visitors’ locker room,

staring down at his players. At 38, Allen wasn’t that far removed from his days

playing pro overseas and, before that, at San Jose Christian College, a Bible

school where he was an All America two guard. He’d added a few pounds to his

wide-hipped, 6′?1″ frame but still had the look of an athlete. Though he rarely

raised his voice, he was furious. Seven games into the season Gunderson was 3-4,

and Allen had seen enough. Enough showboating, insubordination, tardiness and

bullying of teammates. “I want all of you to give me your jerseys,” he shouted.

“Take them off. Right now!”


The players did, wondering what would happen next. The following morning after

practice, Allen gathered them for an announcement.


In a calm voice he announced that he was suspending the starting five — Ryan, Lodi,

Joaquin, Lamar and big man Jose Silva — for disciplinary reasons, the exact

nature of which remains a matter of dispute two years later. One point was

clear, though: The players were not to show up for practice on Monday. The only

way for them to rejoin the team, Allen said, was to return with a parent and

meet with him.


Allen thought he’d laid down the law. But when he arrived for practice on

Monday, a little before 6 a.m., he found the suspended starters outside the gym,

under the HOME OF THE GRIZZLIES, along with the rest of the team. As Allen

approached, Lamar spoke up: “Coach, we want to talk to you.”

“You’re wasting your time,” Allen said. “You can’t be here today. You need to


Then Allen walked to the back of the gym to unlock it. Once inside, he turned on

the lights and strolled across the court to open the front doors. What he saw

then stopped him cold.

Only four boys remained under the sign outside: a pair of freshmen, Jonathan

Chavez and David Awolowo, and two sophomores, Mel Sotelo and Mohamed Ali. Not

only had the five suspended players vanished, but so had eight of their

teammates, including all the upperclassmen.

Allen peered out into the predawn grayness, then back at the four boys who now

composed the Gunderson varsity. It was one of those moments, Allen would later

say, when you find out who you are as a coach and as a man.

“All right,” Allen said, holding open the door, “let’s get to work.”

And so the boys huffed through Allen’s beloved medicine-ball drills and ran a

truncated version of the weave. That afternoon Allen called up the two jayvee

players he believed could survive on the varsity, James Miller and Evan Conry.

That gave him six boys. None were older than 15.



What happens when a coach draws a line in the sand? How does it affect the

trajectory of his life and the lives of his players?

Allen became something of a folk hero. “The mutiny at Gunderson High,” an

article in the San Jose Mercury News called it. “We weren’t being that

disrespectful,” said Eddie Perez, one of the seniors quoted in the story.

“[Coach Allen] wants to run the team his way and doesn’t listen to our own

opinions.” Allen’s perspective: “These kids nowadays feel they are privileged

and have a right, but they fail to realize what being part of a team is about.”

The story hit a nerve. Not that disrespectful? Readers flooded the Mercury News

with letters chiding the boys. “I would rather support students with a little

less talent but good manners and sportsmanship than these self-centered

students,” wrote Juanita Walters of Milpitas.

“Finally, here was an adult who was willing to put ego and winning aside in

order to grow character in the young men he coached,” wrote Elizabeth Vander

Esch of San Jose.