MUTINY ON THE HARDWOOD
On Feb. 6, Drake players announced that they would no longer play for second-year coach Tom Abatemarco, who they say treated them abusively. To strengthen their case against him, the players alleged that Abatemarco had given them free access to the school's telephone WATS line and free gym shoes to sell, and that he was aware that assistant coach Tom Butler had written school papers for some of them. The next day university vice-president Jack Ohle announced that Abatemarco would be reassigned until an investigation into the charges could be completed. He was replaced by assistant coach Eddie Fields.
Drake is the third school in the last five weeks to be confronted with a case of hoops mutiny. At Northern Arizona, coach Pat Rafferty, 32, resigned on Jan. 23 after six players allegedly met with university administrators and demanded that he step down. The players accused Rafferty of verbal abuse.
Rafferty's 8-35 record at Northern Arizona, which hired him in 1988, may have increased the pressures inherent in his job. "I wanted the team to take on my personality, my intensity, my emotion," he said after resigning. "If you look at their play, they have to be pushed in every capacity."
Lumberjack athletic director Tom Jurich defended Rafferty—"I've had coaches here that made Pat look like a pussycat," he said—but he also revealed that Rafferty was suffering from "serious personal problems." He would not elaborate beyond that.
On Jan. 12, Florida A&M women's coach Mickey Clayton, who had a 199-138 record in 13 seasons at Tallahassee, was reassigned to the post of NCAA compliance officer at the school following a week-long walkout by the Rattlerettes. Just what the players have alleged about Clayton, 36, has yet to be revealed, but the university did issue an official denial of rumors that Clayton's conduct toward his players had been "immoral." Clayton was philosophical about his situation. "We tried to teach them to stand up for things they believe in," he said. "Evidently, that's what they did."
The Drake case has become the most contentious of the three. Abatemarco, 40, has denied violating any NCAA rules. And in an interview on ESPN he said, "I didn't think I did anything to abuse my players." However, Eric Berger, a former Drake guard who completed his eligibility last season, said Abatemarco "treated you like feces. That's about all you can say."
At Drake's 68-62 home loss to Wichita State last Saturday, fans, especially students, generally supported the players. On the other hand, one sign in the stands read: MY SHOES ARE TOO TIGHT—I WANT A NEW COACH.
Winston-Salem State coach Clarence (Bighouse) Gaines, the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, is worried that coaches are not getting a fair shake when accusations like these become public. "One of the only places you'll find any discipline on many college campuses is on the athletic teams," he said. "The kids might say the coach isn't treating them right, but it's possible that whatever problems the players have could have been handled without going to the chancellor first."