When Phil Ingersoll announced he was returning out of retirement to serve as the boys basketball coach for Oklahoma City (Okla.) Douglass High, the narrative seemed like a fairy tale conclusion for a desperate problem for the school.
The Trojans had lost former head coach Terry Long after the departing coach led the program to three consecutive Class 4A state titles. Perhaps the only coach with a level of seniority that even approached Long was Ingersoll, who won three state crowns at the school in the 1980s and later won two more at Oklahoma City (Okla.) Northeast High.
Ingersoll was ready to come back and Douglass was ready to have him, making the negotiations between the two sides rapid and efficient. Everything was set to go … until suddenly it wasn't.
Now Douglass, who also previously served as the athletic director for Oklahoma City Public Schools, is claiming that he was the victim of age discrimination, with officials from the Oklahoma City Public Schools allegedly extending him an official job offer only to rescind it less than a week later.
Ingersoll's lawsuit was officially filed on October 5 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, citing his belief that the school district had hired another applicant simply because he was younger, then couched their sudden change in direction solely in terms of vague justifications.
Ingersoll, age 59, says he met with OKCPS Superintendent Karl Springer in June to inquire about the reason for the offer being rescinded and Springer told him it was due to the "'totality of our relationship,' which he declined to elaborate on. No reason was given for hiring a younger, less experienced person for the job."
Ingersoll told The Oklahoman Tuesday that "my attorney and I did not feel that was an adequate explanation."
The idea that a 59-year-old would not be young and vibrant enough to handle the head coaching duties at a high school powerhouse seems almost laughable. If the Oklahoma City Public Schools wanted a younger man to lead the program, they should have hired one from the outset.
Whether or not Ingersoll gets to return to coaching now remains to be seen, but he's certainly made one thing certain: He won't give up the limelight without incident.
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