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Legendary N.J. coach’s lawyer, supporters claim he was fired for not playing enough white players

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

A legendary and beloved boys basketball coach in New Jersey has been relieved of his duties by school district administrators for questionable reasons, with many supporters contending that he is out of a job for a sinister reason: He refused to bow to criticism that he wouldn't play enough white players.

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Collingswood coach Joe McLoughlin celebrates a victory with a player — Philadelphia Inquirer

Collingswood coach Joe McLoughlin celebrates a victory with a player — Philadelphia Inquirer

As reported extensively by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Collingswood (N.J.) High School boys basketball coach Joe McLoughlin, who is white himself, was not retained by the Board of Education after 14 highly successful seasons leading the Colonial Conference school. The coach led the program to a 225-130 overall record, including six 20-win seasons and two South Jersey Group 2 titles under his direction.

The Collingswood Board of Education refused to offer any official reasons for McLoughlin's ouster, though one member of the board told the Inquirer under the condition of anonymity that "a lack of team discipline" was the primary motivating factor behind not bringing the coach back to the school.

However, McLoughlin's lawyer, Dennis Young Jr., insists that his client was let go because he steadfastly refused to address criticisms by Collingswood administrators that his team was not diverse enough. In this case, the criticism was that McLoughlin didn't include enough white players.

"Joe McLoughlin wasn't retained because he wouldn't play more white players," Young told the Inquirer matter-of-factly. "We're going to do whatever it takes to see that Joe gets his job back."

Young and other supporters of the longtime coach claim that they have ample proof that McLoughlin was explicitly encouraged to change the racial makeup of his program. Young reportedly has heard more than 10 years of recordings now in McLoughlin's care that capture racially discriminatory phone conversations in which Collingswood administrators actively discouraged him from playing so many African-American players.

Those recordings and support from the local African-American community have inspired the Camden County East branch of the NAACP and the New Jersey attorney general's to launch a full investigation of the school district and its past practices related to the high school's athletic department.

The coach and his lawyer have claimed that those criticisms created a "hostile work environment" for more than a full decade, with the failure to retain him potentially leading to a future lawsuit if McLoughlin is not reinstated by the school district itself.

In the meantime, McLoughlin's many supporters are speaking up as loudly as possible about the profound effect that the history teacher and coach had on they or their child's lives.

"[McLoughlin's dismissal] is an outrage," David White, the father of 2010-11 Collingswood star Julian Welsh-White, told the Inquirer. "Joe had a tremendous influence on Julian, on so many players. He made Julian into more of a leader than he knew that he was."

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