Originally created 05/06/04

"Crybaby Award" gets coach in trouble; board wants him fired



PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. -- A middle school basketball coach who presented a "Crybaby Award" trophy to a 13-year-old player has been fired from his coaching job, and the board of education wants him out entirely, officials said Wednesday.

James Guillen, 24, must make a public apology, attend sensitivity training and hold a second banquet to give out a proper award, School Superintendent Edwin Coyle said. But he said he opposed firing him as a teacher.

The boy's father, Terrence Philo Sr., said that just before the April 24 banquet, Guillen called the boy and told him he would be getting a special trophy.

At the banquet, the teen watched as all his teammates received trophies or certificates. He was then called up to receive his award, and the coach told him he was getting a Crybaby Award because "he begged to get in the game, and all he did was whine."

The trophy was a figure of a baby atop a pedestal engraved with the boy's name, which was spelled incorrectly. Family members said the teen was deeply embarrassed.

On Tuesday, the Pleasantville Board of Education voted to fire Guillen, rejecting Coyle's recommendation for lighter sanctions even though the board's own attorney said hiring and firing recommendations must come from the superintendent.

Coyle called Guillen's actions "totally unacceptable" but said an outright dismissal would be too severe a punishment. He said he would ask the board a second time to authorize, instead of firing, a five-day suspension without pay for Guillen and the forfeiture of a $3,000 pay raise. The board meets again next Tuesday.

Guillen has yet to speak publicly, but school officials quoted him as saying the award was his idea alone. He did not respond to requests for comment made at the school and through a representative of the New Jersey Education Association.

The boy's father said he wants his son treated fairly.

"I just want what's right. I want my son to have a trophy and certificate like everyone else got. No less, no more," he said.

Others wanted stiffer penalties.

"He should be fired," said Gina Jones, 43, a parent who attended the board's meeting Tuesday night. "You should just have better sense."

Vernon Walker, who coached in a league in which Guillen played as a teen, said "crybaby" was used to tell players "you argue too much and to focus more on your play. It has to be taken in context." Still, he said, Guillen showed poor judgment.