EAST ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – East St. Louis School District 189 released a statement Wednesday, confirming basketball coach Tony Young has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The suspension is with pay.
Some students say the investigation is the result of a motivational speech the coach gave during a halftime. That speech reportedly recorded Young encouraging players to injure an opponent. Students say it was posted on YouTube but has since been removed. Students we talked with feel the coach's words were taken out of context.
"He was just trying to inspire the team," said one student who did not want to be identified.
District officials say they cannot confirm the details of the investigation because it's a personnel matter.
Jim Powers is a prep zone analyst for FOX 2. He's followed Young's career since the Flyers coach played basketball for SIU-Carbondale. Powers can't believe Young would encourage his players to injure an opponent.
"Knowing Tony as well as I do it kind of really surprised me," said Powers.
Powers said Young worked as a graduate assistant for Rick Majerus at St. Louis University before East St. Louis District 189 hired him.
"I think he's a great guy. He's a great young coach in the area," said Powers.
District spokeswoman Kim Roberson said it will be business as usual in the district. She said the team next plays Friday. She said Hank Harris would serve as interim coach. Young is also the district's athletic director. Roberson said the district is in the process of finding a replacement for that position while the internal investigation continues.