Editor’s note: Tony Hamlin, coach of the Penquis High School boys basketball team, has submitted a guest column to the BDN addressing the negative public reaction of some after Lee Academy won the Eastern Maine Class C boys basketball title for the second straight year Saturday.
Lee Academy defeated our basketball team in double overtime last Friday (in a semifinal) and ended our hopes of a championship season. Many of our fans were understandably disappointed in the outcome; it is part of the game and we can learn some hard lessons if we are willing.
However, in the aftermath of the tournament there have been some very unfortunate comments made toward Lee Academy in general and my friend Randy Harris in particular. They were made by basketball fans from the surrounding area that are upset at what they perceive to be an unfair advantage Lee enjoys by using athletes from outside their community.
While we certainly can have philosophical differences over the fairness of the situation, to make it personal toward a coach or his family or to use racial epithets to make a point is unfair and beyond the pale.
I’ve known Coach Harris for nearly 20 years and have coached against him for the past 16 years. He plays the kids who are in front of him. I am convinced he does not recruit his players in any way. To suggest otherwise is to slander the name of a coach and a family who have been part of Eastern Maine’s athletic community for close to 50 years. I know personally that he has received vile emails, anonymous posts on blogs and threatening phone calls that suggest he is a cheat, liar and worse.
In my opinion, writing a comment on a blog or website without signing your name is a cowardly act. For anyone to make comments to his children about his worth as a human being is disgraceful. For anyone to use blatantly racist terms to describe his players is reprehensible.
Moreover, regardless of how we feel about the use of students attending a semiprivate school in a public school tournament, if we sit silently by and allow people to destroy the reputation of a coach and publicly castigate young student athletes, we are as guilty as the people spewing the hatred and over-the-top rhetoric.
We are obliged to keep the debate civil and appropriate. Honest people can honestly disagree.
I can only speak for my school. We will continue to play Lee Academy and compete to beat them whenever we meet on the basketball court. In many ways they will force us to be better and more competitive. We will be disappointed when we lose, but I hope my players and our fans will not use that disappointment to do something dishonorable. We have to be better than that.
To Coach Harris, I apologize for the pain and discomfort you and your family have experienced. It is not deserved. To your players, congratulations on a great season, best of luck in the state championship, and we look forward to having the chance to beat you next year.
Tony Hamlin has coached varsity basketball for 30 years at Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, Morse of Bath, South Portland and Penquis. He is also the Penquis athletic director. He played basketball for four years at the University of Maine for coach Skip Chappelle in the early 1970s.