Were jealous parents responsible for Fleming’s firing? Sam Hosey weighs in

Posted: May 26, 2010 by Jared Field in High School

Sam Hosey, an MSU basketball insider and veteran recruiting analyst, has chimed in on the recent firing of Doug Fleming. Hosey, an East Lansing graduate, questioned the decision in his blog at lifeinlansing.com this morning. I encourage you to read it, but I’ll cut right to the chase. Sam says:

Over the course of the season, I had been told of a brewing unrest among the parents. Two weeks ago, I received a call about a meeting with the parents, Fleming and the other coaches. I was told by a parent (of a non-player that attended the meeting) that Fleming would be back next season, but obviously something happened since then. If the stories of parents being unhappy with the attention that Steven Haney Jr. received this last year, I have to say I am saddened.

If jealous parents had ANYTHING to do with Fleming’s ouster, the administration of the school should be ashamed. It would be an utter disgrace for any school to grease squeaky parental wheels at the expense of a great coach. Tom Hunt, East Lansing’s athletic director, has a lot of explaining to do. Sam Hosey is a friend and a legitimate news source. He’s not going to misreport or exaggerate the circumstances surrounding the firing, so I am inclined to believe that was is being speculated is true.

This situation is a shot across the bow for all coaches. If Doug Fleming’s job isn’t secure, whose job is?

  1. waddmanjm says:

    Fleming is a good coach and a good guy. There was talk regarding the parental involvement in East LA. It’s a shame that players receiving press is more important than playing the right way and winning. True Fleming has a down season but the team was in a lot of the games. They also have a lot of returning players so the cupboard isn’t in Trojan Land.

  2. Cliff Lazar says:

    If the situation was really that toxic for Fleming from the bleachers and from the administration’s standpoint, then good for him.

    Nobody deserves to be treated that way. If he wants to coach again, there are dozens and dozens of open jobs posted on the bcam website.

    These parents think that high school basketball is like D1 ball and that coaches should be hired and fired based on records. This is high school; you only get to work with the x number of guys that walk through your gym door in November.

  3. Verl says:

    I don’t have a kid on the team, so my kids weren’t directly affected with this. I can tell you, there is way more to this story. I know some of the parents, and they had legitimate issues with this coach. A good parent defintely should be involved with their kids, including staying in touch with the coaches and paying attention to whats going on with the teams they are on. I agree coaches need to be left to do their job–up to a point. They do not have a license to run rough shod over people though.

    Handing a 14 yr old the ball on a varsity team and running 80% of the offense through them is just a foolish exercise on so many levels. I felt sorry for the Haney kid the entire year. A high school Freshman, regardless of their talent level, is not emotionally or psychologically ready to be put in this role. This coach effectively threw the Juniors and Seniors under the bus this year, for the purpose of developing and marketing younger players.. The result was a dramatically underacheving team, which was clearly fractured and at times, noticeablely unmotivated. That fault lies with the coach, not the parents.

    • Jared Field says:

      I’d like the AD to explain himself. Coach Fleming is well-respected among people who know the game. I guess I don’t understand how, in one year’s time, he becomes dispensable. Obviously the Trojans had a poor season, but I know for a fact parents almost NEVER have realistic expectations.

      I’ve seen him win with very little talent. I haven’t seen too many others do that. He could come to Flint and immediately be one of the best coaches in our area.

      Early in the season, EL was dismantled by Eastern. By the end of the season, they played them down to the wire before losing by 4. Eastern had way more talent. I’d call that progress.

      Here’s a good rule of thumb: No one wants to win more than a coach — not the players, not the fans, and not even the parents of players. If 80% of the plays went through a freshman, it’s because the coach (who practices with the team most every day) feels it gives the team its best opportunity to win. Period. That being said, the coaches aren’t always right. It’s hard to say in this case. When I saw East Lansing play, I didn’t see much talent outside of Haney and Efe, who is still really raw.

      • Verl says:

        I don’t know much about Flemming prior to the past year. All I know is what I observed this year, and heard from parents of current players. The parents I know are very credible people. Not the meddlesome types. I also know Tom Hunt, and know him to be someone of integrity, and he would not make this decision unless he either had a legitimate reason, or was instructed to do so by the administration.

        From what I saw on the court, this year was a coaching debacle. I agree, one bad year does not warrant losing a job. But this isn’t rocket science. Its basketball. EL got beat like a drum by Eastern early in the year in part because they made the mistake of trying to get in a running game with them, and in part because the younger players did not play defense. The older kids did not know what their roles were on the court, because the coaches corronated a young kid before they should have. I can’t stand watching players not take open shots out of fear of failure or repercussion. Flemming threw the upperclassmen under the bus, plain and simple. They may not have been a talented upper class, but they were certainly capable of earning more than 6 victories. This is the CAAC, not the Big Ten.

      • muthguy1 says:

        Haney was much better than any other player on that team, regardless of age. Bell could score some and did score some.

        This appears to be some jealous, out-of-control parents. The thought that any kid on that team was any more capable than Haney at scoring, etc. was laughable. I saw a few of their games.

        Haney had talent.

        The others were mostly average to good high school players.

  4. Jared Field says:

    I get what you are saying, but let me point something out:

    I almost never apply the term “credible” to parents of players. In my experiences with parents of players, only once (maybe twice) have I ever met a parent whose understanding of their child’s ability was based in reality. They see the team, the game, the coach, etc. through a very narrow prism. It’s not their fault, really. I’d probably be the same way.

    I don’t know all the inside stuff that went down this season, but I do know that a guy like Fleming doesn’t just forget how to coach.

  5. caacya says:

    The E.L. Situation is interesting,because the team underachieved big time, and there is more talent on that team besides Haney.
    All coaches know starting a freshman on a varsity team is a delicate situation that can result in a lo of animosity from players and more importantly parents.the coach right or wrong let a 14 or 15 year old cost him his job. The chemistry between the coach and his players was destroyed,as well as his relationship with the all important parents,once you lose that its time to go.Parents don’t have to like you,but you need to be respected,without that respect its just a matter of time before your gone.

    • Jared Field says:

      The coach didn’t let anyone cost him his job. It sounds to me like the AD bowed to pressure from short-sighted parents whose knowledge of the game can be summed up in a sentence: “My son is really, really good.”

      I hope East Lansing hires a “parents’ coach” to replace Fleming. You can imagine how that will end.

      Most any coach would jump at the chance to be able to take over a program with all that young talent. Unfortunately, who is going to want to thrown in with the over-involved parents and an an AD who won’t have the coach’s back?

    • Marcellus Miller says:

      I know a little something about starting a freshman on varsity and them getting significant minutes as well. I also know a bit about the parents’ detesting of such a move, especially those that have seniors on the team. I will admit that I have very little in depth knowledge of the E.L. situation, but I can tell you that kids these days have a very hard time looking in the mirror and a lot of that can be attributed to parents who tell them they’re great from age 7. They start AAU teams so their kids can be the stars. Then when real adversity hits, neither can handle it.

      The solution to the complaint of a freshman getting most of the offense? It is the same as I told my players (and they will tell you), that is, play BETTER THAN THE FRESHMAN! It is a real simple equation for most coaches. Players that give a coach the best chance to win get the playing time. Are there situations where favortism comes into play? Absolutely! BUt for the most part, if kids would go home and tell their parents that it is their own lack of performance in practice and in games that keeps them off the floor, things would be a lot smoother. I had a player last year who thought the coaches didn’t like him and that is why he wasn’t playing. He asked me like a man, I told him the real, and he started working his butt off. He ended the season playing an integral role on the team and as the recipient of its most improved award. That’s how you solve a playing time issue as a player…work harder. What happened to that?

  6. Gavin Raath says:

    Anyone who knows basketball knows that Fleming was special. He took a team to the Breslin that had no business being there. The only coach I have seen do the same was Rory Mattar at Flint CA a few years back. If I were Lansing Eastern’s AD, I would be calling Fleming, and that’s not a knock on their current coach, just that Fleming can win with less.

    And 80% of the offense did not run through Haney. Junior Tyler Tucker had a big role on this team and he deserved it. There’s a ton of talent on this team, but it is very raw — to expect a big year from this EL team was a joke, especially with a loaded CAAC. These parents interpretted their kdis not playing as the reason for losing, when really they would have lost by more.

    • Verl says:

      It sounds like most of you, like others in the media, have already made up your mind about this situation. I’m not going to spend much more time beyond this post discussing it. I’ll give others the last word. I’m not surprised that the basketball community is rallying around the coach though. That’s how it goes. Maybe that’s a good thing, so long as people on the outside realize that they don’t have all the facts. I will say this: we aren’t exactly talking about Lofton Green or Paul Cook here. I think his career record is sub .500. If memory serves me right, EL had what, 2 winning seasons under his tenure? I didn’t look that up, so I could be mistaken.

      I don’t think anyone expected great things from the team last year, but I think most people around the program felt that winning half of the games was reasonable. There was enough talent—raw and otherwise. And yes, the offense was designed to be about 80% Haney, 20% Tucker. That’s a whole lot of jump shots. Take care.


      • Jared Field says:

        He’s a really good coach.

        He won the CAAC-1 in 2007 and took a team with very average talent to the final four in 2008.

        When he led the Trojans to the aforementioned conference title, it was the school’s first since I was a sophomore in high school. That, unfortunately, was a really long time ago.

        Winning with little talent is tough; winning with young talent is tough. Being jealous, whining and pretending to know it all as a parent, well that’s pretty easy.

      • Marcellus Miller says:

        I would also like to point out that giving a freshman the lead role without having earned it and based on talent alone is very dangerous as well for the player and the team. The player must be accepted as a floor leader by the team for it to work which means he must have the correct attitude and work ethic as well. I don’t know if that was the case here…

  7. Verl says:

    Its also pretty easy to shoot from the hip without all the facts. Thats the easiest thing of all.

  8. JucoJunkie says:

    I don’t know a thing about this particular situation so I won’t comment on it. Also, every situation like it is unique, so what happens in one case is different than other cases. With that being said, the firing or non-renewal of a coach’s contract is similar to what some players experience. When a student-athlete works his or her butt off for four years in high school and does not get any significant playing time, that’s a shame. What really bothers me as a parent and as a coach is to hear some coaches demand loyalty and commitment from their players only to not give it themselves to their players. I’ve seen too many coaches not give playing time to some of their players even when the outcome of a game was decided early. Again, every situation is unique and has to be evaluated accordingly. But sometimes the perceived whining by players and parents is for a good reason, just as the perceived whining by a coach can be for a good reason.

    • Jared Field says:

      Maybe that’s the place of an assistant coach. Parents are almost never realistic about their children. In the adult world it’s called a conflict of interest.

  9. El89 says:

    I am a proud East Lansing grad, but I have to admit to not knowing any of of the parties involved. I’m most concerned with the fact that most (not all) people see this situation in such a black and white manner. If Sam (Hosey) and the rest of the basketball guys think that Coach Fleming was/is a good coach (and person) than i’m certain that he was/is. If the question is, who’s right and who’s wrong? The answer is everyone(simultaneously). For those who say the ‘jealous’ parents were (completely) wrong, obviously dont have kids in competitive activities. A job of a parent is to protect your baby until they can protect themselves. Just wait until a coach or teacher passes up your older kid to go with a younger kid who has more potential. I gurantee that you’re going to react just like these parents did. For those who say Coach Fleming was(completly) wrong to give the (team) reins to young Haney, are not being totally honest. The job of a coach is to do what is best for his program to win. Any coach will tell you (in a rebuilding year) if you have a freshman player competing with a jr/sr player who has comparable talent, the freshman will get the nod most of the time. Is Coach Fleming wrong for giving much needed playing time and development to a freshman, who is just as good as the juniors and seniors? Heck no. For those who say that A.D Hunt was wrong to fire the coach, obviously have not spent very long in management. His job is to keep his coaches and parents both happy, which often times is impossible. Im certain that A.D Hunt knows that Coach Fleming was/is a talented coach. Im fairly certain that at some point the A.D brought the concerns of the parents to Coach Fleming and asked him to “handle it”. The huge unknown in this situation is, what did Coach Fleming do to “handle it”. Did coach Fleming choose to dig his heels in and opt to not play politics (with the parents)? Who truly knows aside from Coach Fleming and those internally involved. Was he wrong for the choices that he made? I dont think so. Were the parents wrong for fighting for their kids? I dont think so. Was the A.D wrong for firing the coach? I dont think so. From the outside looking in Coach Fleming was the catlyst in creating this problem. Leadership can most assuredly be provided by a talented freshman, but he has to earn it (on his own) from his older teammates. A coach just cant (overtly) send the cues that Player A is more talented, therefore the less talented Player B must follow. If a coach does this, Player B (let alone player C,D,E or F) will never buy in. Coach Fleming obviously failedto get the other players to buy into the fact that Haney was the best option for team success. For those who think that the other players bought into the plan,but the parents didnt , are absolutely wrong. Parents rarely openly complain (about athletics) if their child deems the situation as fair and just.

    • Jared Field says:

      A better question might be this: What about this situation is preparing these kids for the real world?

      • Marcellus Miller says:

        What child goes home and is honest with their parents about playing time? How many parents watch practice regularly if there are grpwing concerns? Game time earned is based off practice time. You don’t earn it in practice, you don’t get it in the game (most of the time). Isn’t the job of a high school coach also to prepare a kid for college where NOTHING will be granted to you just because you are a jr./sr.?

      • El89 says:

        Mr. Field, I use to think the same way when my kids were unfairly slighted. I use to say “just wait until the real world catches up with that kid”,but now i realize that I was only partially right. The “real world” does indeed beat down the kids who dont have to struggle for success, but the “real world” is also lot smoother for those who have friends or family(in this case parents) who will “go to bat” for you. All parties involved will have a chance to be better after this experience. The question is who will internalize the mistakes they made(in this situation) and grow. My money is on Coach Fleming( i dont even know the dude,but if he can spark you guys to “go to bat” for him , than he must be pretty ok,right?).
        As for kids keeping it real about playing time and parents watching practice. What teenager tells the whole truth about anything when it doesnt benefit them? As for parents watching practice, we are just trying to keep it all(home,work,kids marriage) together. Most parents dont have the time or desire to micro-manage a team that they are not managing. The parents stepped in when they felt they had no other alternative. When the dust settles talk to Coach Fleming and I will guarantee you that at some point he had a chance to play politics. Maybe he was right and justified not to play, or maybe not.

  10. Gavin Raath says:

    If I had a child, I probably would fight for his playing time, BUT that does not make it right. It’s a mercenary interest and a coach should not be put in that situation to choose to play one player over another based upon that particular player’s lobbying power. It’s unethical in politics and the same stands here on a smaller scale.

    And lot’s of kids work hard over four years, but still aren’t good enough to play. That’s just life. There has to be some grain of talent, but I’ve never known EL teams to be ones where Fleming was obsessed with his talent, but more about guys that could execute, take care of the ball and defend.

    And for the record, I saw East Lansing play twice last season and I did not get the feeling that 80% of the plays, or whatever ridiculous number an earlier poster mustered, ran through Haney. The truth is that Tyler Tucker, at least from my seat, seemed like the team leader, and he deserves to be with his physical style and toughness, but Haney was the storyline every time because, duh, he’s an impressive freshman playing varsity.

    It’s a great lesson here learned for EL kids. If you don’t get what you want, then complain until you do and oust a HIGH quality coach.

    Speaking of Fleming’s greatness as a coach, you might have to know something about the game to spot it. I’ve watched him for the last five years outcoach FAR more talented teams possession-by-possession for wins. In arguably Michigan’s strongest conference of this decade, he made EL relevant with the Hollenbecks, Gerald Busby [who I actually thought was good under Fleming, until he got to college], Leek, Lapka, Alex Schmidt, Eric Smith [an Okemos cast-away], Brian Spencer and Charlie Woods, who went from being a lanky scrapper to stud in one year. There is no question that he had far less talent year-in and year-out, than Okemos, Holt, Jackson, Eastern, Grand Ledge and maybe even Everett. It is NONSENSE to complain about his record when he had the worst talent to work with, but still managed to beat these teams throughout the season.

    • Marcellus Miller says:

      I remember when I played…and no matter what injustice my dad may have felt was transpiring, he stayed in the stands as a parent as long as nothing rose to the level of disrespect. He felt that the job of the coach included dictating playing time and that is the way it was then. Back in 1992, a freshman Mateen Cleaves led Flint Northern. Charlie Bell and several others around the same time did as well, even as frosh. Parents may have complained amongst each other, but that’s where it pretty much where it stayed. Now there is an attitude among many parents and kids that each child somehow DESERVES time and will play at the next level. Neither is true. You must EARN time through production, much like you earn your spot on the next level. I wonder when the last time a parent said to their child honestly, “Look son, you have to produce when called upon. Unfortunately, there are some that have worked harder or are more talented playing in front of you. Unless you displace them with your stellar production in whtever minutes you earn, you will always be in their rearview mirror.” Instead, it’s more like “That coach is crazy! You deserve your time because you are at practice each day! You should be starting! I am going to give him a piece of my mind!”

      And thus the kid goes to practice and games with an attitude of being owed something. That does not promote them working harder, but rather the opposite. And then we wonder why so many kids’ talent/production plateau after so long…but maybe that’s just me.

  11. JucoJunkie says:

    In the end, the most important way to minimize parental complaints and ensure team harmony is for the coach to spell everything out to the players and the parents before the season starts. That way everyone hears the same thing and there are no surprises. If a coach is honest in what he or she tells them and follows through, then the complaints will virtually disappear. But if the coach doesn’t tell the whole story or doesn’t follow through, then the players and parents have a right to complain.

  12. caacya says:

    Sam Hosey’s headline” Were jealous parents responsible for Flemings firing”.
    Parents were pissed off
    .. not jealous,and players were pissed off as well,Jared made the statement about the AD not having the coaches back,he is not there to have the coaches back,his job is not to have the coaches back,if anything the AD should be on the coaches back to nip situations in the bud.

    One thing that has not been mentioned is that Steve Haney Sr. Was an asst. Coach on the team,and I am sure that added fuel to the fire!! Fleming had to know that was going to raise some eyebrows.
    I think Fleming had a case of “Haney fever” and lost site of a few other components.

  13. Interested says:

    I have read these posts and it is interesting that the 80% offense charge has been the number consistently leveled by the jealous parent group, so Verl, you should have picked a different number to avoid the transparency of you being quite obviously a member of the Sam Tucker led jealous parent group…Coach Fleming never ran 80% of the plays for Haney, period. End of story. When Haney Jr was named unanimous 1st Team All CAAC, Tucker melted down and was so upset his kid did not make the team over Haney, he went after Fleming, that is the true story here…..Sam Tucker.

    As Sam Hosey pointed out, Haney Jr is being recruited actively by the following schools; MSU, Ohio State, USC, Arkansas, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Kentucky and Duke….this does not set well with the spoiled, privileged and affluence of the EL community and the Junior class of parents, whose spoiled brats lost playing time to a clearly better, more talented, albeit younger, player.

    Haney Jr is now 6’6….and can dribble and is one of the best shooters in the state….period…High major DI talent. If anyone saw the team play this season, there is NO QUESTION he was the most talented player on the team, regardless of age. The EL HS team did not win a game this season when he scored less than 16ppg and against 3 top 10 high school teams this season had games of 31, 27 and 25….yes, very newsworthy of a Freshman.. Haney Jr. had more 20 pt games his Freshman year than Charlie Woods had in his ENTIRE CAREER.

    I know the family and they are PISSED. The comments about Haney Sr are a joke. He was a volunteer coach spending countless hours in the gym working with the same spoiled brats who turned on him and his kid….Oh yea, Haney Sr, was a college All American and pro and #2 in the history of scoring at Lansing Everett HS behind Magic Johnson…what a bad thing to have him on the bench…what a bunch of idiots..

    IF Haney Jr stays I will be surprised. Knowing the kid and the Dad, this is the best thing that ever happened to them. We will see how this plays out in November….Anyone who knows EL knows this is the way the uppity entitled handle their failures…instead of getting into the gym and actually working, they point the finger at others for their shortcomings…..

    • Jared Field says:

      I love a good roast. That was great stuff.

    • Verl says:

      I was pretty upfront about where I stood regarding my info, so I’ve already been transparent, if you chose to read what I wrote. As I said, I know some of of the parents and administrators. I don’t know the Tuckers though. Never talked to them, as a matter of fact. I did not have a kid on the team either (my son is elementary age). I sat behind the bench for several games and saw how Fleming handled the team, and was not particularly impressed.

      Haney is a great shooter, and a good ball handler. He has a bright future, and like I said (if you read that part) I felt sorry for him as much as anything. There is more to basketball than offense though, if you get my drift. And, Haney was but one of several issues with the team. Coach lost the team and the parents…..end of story. Trashing the parents and administration in this case is simplistic, and frankly, lazy.

    • Verl says:

      By the way, great job with the name calling and cliches about EL. If you knew me, you would know I’m anything but privileged, or rich. Same with most of the families with kids on the team. It’s quite funny, actually. I’m just the concerned parent of a very young boy. Never been to a team meeting or griped to the AD.

      Sounds like you took this personally yourself. Hmmmmm.

  14. SBell says:

    I don’t know the ins-and-outs of East Lansing petty bourgeoisie politics (thank God), I only know what I saw on the court. What I saw on the court from very early in the year, when Haney was deferential, to later on, when he was the first offensive option, was a better team, simply because Haney can shoot, and the guys he took shots from can’t.

  15. EL observer says:

    Hopefully, more than a few of the letter-writers above have come to realize just how wrong they were—on so many levels. It just reinforces the need for journalism even when blogging.

  16. muthguy1 says:

    East Lansing is lucky that they were able to replace Coach Fleming with Coach Finamore. There is some behind the scenes drama at Eastern also.

    Haney is doing very well on the out-of-state team he transferred to.

    Coach Finamore is doing a great job and he’s a great leader. East Lansing is lucky to have found the one person who could have made a positive situation out of that mess. By the way, Tucker was a starter last year, but far from the best player on last year’s team. I don’t see where any of the other players who lost time to Haney had much to complain about. I will admit that Tracey Edmond and Devlin Bell showed themselves to be strong players, but that is after a year of improving.

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