BURNSTEIN COLUMN: The whole Renaissance mess, made worse by McCaskill's departure this week, all could've been avoided
This all could have been avoided. The entire soap opera engulfing the Detroit Renaissance boys basketball program, the public relations mess that it has brought should have never happened.
But it did. And now we have a situation where a once-potential Class A state championship team is in chaos, its star player just bolted hours before the season tipped off and its former coach is without a job and nursing a reputation that was unnecessarily besmirched.
Where did this all go wrong?
In the latest development in this ongoing saga, Renaissance saw Mr. Basketball candidate Carrington McCaskill walk out the door, on the morning of the Phoenix opener, to go to Spire Academy in Ohio — another in a long line of the best and brightest the state's hoop scene has to offer heading to prep school. The 6-foot-7 McCaskill, previously considered the top player in the Detroit Public School League, averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game last season and is signed with Florida Atlantic University.
McCaskill and his mother led a player-parent resistance in the aftermath of Renaissance firing coach Vito Jordan two months ago to no avail. It's since been discovered that he was the victim of a new direction from the new Renaissance principal to remove Jordan and bring back former Phoenix coach Mark White, who led the program to two Class B state titles in the 2000s. Which was her right and could have easily been sold and digested without innuendo.
The school made public statements stating Jordan was being ushered out for his toxic behavior. Based on emails obtained by The Detroit Free Press, we now believe that was not entirely true. The school simply wanted to re-hire White. Without belaboring the point, the plan blew up in their face.
White accepted the job for about 12 hours but then realized the stressful environment he was entering and walked away. Jordan, the man responsible for building Renaissance into what should have been a state-title contending club in 2019, can't find a job because of the smear to his name. The team, now coached by former Class D state champion Southfield Christian assistant John White (no relation to Mark), is reportedly in turmoil with players angered by how Jordan was treated, resisting a new system, and wanting their old coach back.
Now, it was fully within Renaissance principal Verynda Stroughter's rights to change coaches. Nobody disputes that. She took over the school in September and she could have made the change in the basketball program with no explanation other than she wanted to go in a different direction. This direction has created a controversy, cultivating a PR disaster, and maybe jeopardizing the principal’s reputation. This scenario has upset a senior-laden squad that loved their former coach, which in turn, makes it even more difficult for the next man in to do his job and get the program where Renaissance ultimately wants it to go.
I know coach Jordan personally. He's a man of character and integrity. He owns a master’s degree in education, mentors his players in life just as much as hoops, and should be the type of person the Detroit Public School District embraces.
One thing is for sure, he didn't deserve this. And the players didn't deserve this. The instability injected into what should have been a rousing, drama free campaign has now turned a promising season into doubt.
What a shame.