Kroner: McCoys will stick with STM
CHAMPAIGN — St. Thomas More is currently without a girls’ basketball head coach.
After five days of rumor and innuendo, that announcement was made by Ryan Bustle, the high school principal, on Friday, with his succinct one-sentence statement: “Mr. (Chris) Mennig is no longer an employee of St. Thomas More.”
Bustle wouldn’t answer any additional questions or offer any insight to the reasons for the departure.
Mennig, who has an eight-year record of 197-51 at STM, has been unavailable for comment.
When no one from either side reveals details, it leads to widespread speculation. It’s easy to think the worst. It’s probably natural to think the worst.
After all, how often is a person who directed a basketball team to consecutive state championship-game appearances, and 65 wins during the past two seasons, summarily dismissed?
As a matter of fact, it happened in our area nearly 20 years ago. Remembering that case should lead to one conclusion about this one. Hold off on the judgment of what many consider the inevitable: that Mennig is guilty of an infraction or an impropriety.
Here are the facts, as we know them at this moment. No police charges have been filed. No warrants have been issued. No one has stepped forward with an accusation of any misdeed or misconduct.
If there was an investigation, as some sources have suggested, it has not been publicly acknowledged.
If Mennig is guilty of something today, he will be equally guilty in a month. Or six weeks.
We should learn facts before we castigate someone who has helped change the face of girls’ basketball in our area, before we permanently tarnish the reputation of someone who has worked tirelessly to make St. Thomas More into a state power in his sport.
One of the stories circulating on social media sites is that Mennig was involved in recruiting Tori McCoy — one of the nation’s premier sophomores — to St. Thomas More.
The person who should know says that is 100 percent false.
“That was not the case at all,” Tim McCoy said. “It has nothing to do with recruitment. My daughter has been telling me about some of the wild accusations. It has nothing to do with my family. It has nothing to do with anything inappropriate.
“I am surprised (at the dismissal). To my understanding, there are things he is going through in his personal life and what the dioceses felt were some things that could affect him and his work at St. Thomas More. In my understanding, once things are cleared, there is a possibility he could maybe get his job back. If he cannot get his job back, I’d be heartbroken, I’d hate to see him go.”
No matter who is coaching the Sabers in 2015, Tim McCoy said his daughters Tori (a junior-to-be) and Madison (a sophomore-to-be) will still be at the school.
“They will remain fixtures and will graduate from St. Thomas More, whether or not Chris comes back,” Tim McCoy said.
On the surface, there are possible parallels to Mennig’s situation and what happened to Sullivan head coach Scott Thomas nearly two decades ago. In that instance, Thomas faced criminal charges, stemming from a theft, which he vehemently denied.
When it came time for the trial, the courtroom was filled with people who wanted to distinguish fiction from fact. Not only was Thomas exonerated but the evidence showed that on the date of the alleged theft, he was hundreds of miles away.
He was not guilty in a court of law but condemned to the reality that public opinion had rendered its opinion on him months before when the charges were levied. To this day, there are people who don’t remember the acquittal.
Thomas, who was relieved of his coaching duties when the charges were filed, never coached another game. A person who outworked his contemporaries, who was a master of the X’s and O’s, who was a sure-fire Hall of Famer, will likely never be inducted and given his rightful recognition.
While there are similarities between Thomas and Mennig, we should learn from the past. Reserve judgment until we know more than speculation and hearsay. The facts will speak for themselves, when they have the opportunity.
Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette’s executive sports editor. He writes a high school-related column throughout the school year. He can be reached by phone at 217-351-5235, by fax at 217-373-7401 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @fredkroner.