November 20, 2009
In the latest episode of "Burning Kansas," Mark Mangino struck back hard on his regular Thursday night radio show at the mounting evidence that he's a vulgar bully with no tact or respect for his players, using the forum to defend graduation rates and team GPA [Play]
in his tenure, charge critics with "embarrassing this team for their 15 minutes of fame" and plead (a la Bobby Bowden) that he can't do the work in four years with some of these hoods that negligent parents failed to do in eighteen. Man's not going out without a fight.
Speaking of parents, though, the Kansas City Star happened across a few who recall Mangino from his first head coaching job, as a 33-year-old high school coach in Pennsylvania who had a group of parents calling for his head before the end of his only season at the helm (emphasis added):
The Lincoln Wolverines had gone 7-3 and made the playoffs in each of the two previous seasons, but they would go 1-9 under Mangino. The bad record was no surprise, given how the school year began. Just weeks into the season, a group of disgruntled parents and players went to the Ellwood City School Board demanding that Mangino be fired.
"It was a really nasty situation," said Thomas Costa, whose son, Landon, was on the team. "This is a pretty easygoing town. There were just some things that shocked people — language, a harsh approach to people — that kind of rubbed people the wrong way. Every once in a while you run across someone who's gonna be in a position to influence your kids, and you just don't feel like they do it in a way that's appropriate. So you speak up about it."
Specific allegations included the familiar charge of verbal abuse, withholding recruiting letters and forcing injured players to clean urinals so they'd be "doing something." Mangino wasn't fired during the season but reportedly didn't finish the year as a teacher or even attend the team banquet on his way out of town.
That was almost 20 years ago, but the charges from parents and players at Kansas are exactly the same (give or take the urinals, with a dash of over-the-top callousness thrown in). The Star is already compiling the inevitable list of successors. At this point, there's not much he could say to recruits except -- in the absolute best case scenario -- "we upset Texas." And even if that incredible feat somehow goes down Saturday in Austin with the Jayhawks facing a 23-point spread off five straight losses, it leaves Kansas facing a tough question: Is it OK to hang on to a popular bully if he reels in the occasional big win?