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Newport Harbor reinstates basketball

Larry Hirst resigned after receiving threats at his H.B. home. District seeks his replacement.

April 19, 2012|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza

Boys' basketball is back at Newport Harbor High.

Principal Michael Vossen said the school has reinstated the program, three weeks after he suspended it because of criminal threats made against then-coach Larry Hirst and his wife.

The question facing Vossen and the Sailors is what kind of an impact has a turbulent past four months had on the program.

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"We want to take the program into a positive place right now," Vossen said. "The first step in doing that is hiring a new coach.

The Sailors are looking for someone to take over a program, which has gone through a lot since the New Year, by Memorial Day weekend.

The Sailors have been without a coach since March 23, when Hirst resigned for good after 16 years in charge. The threats directed toward Hirst and his wife, Sheridan, are the reason why Hirst left.

Vossen said the Huntington Beach and Newport Beach police departments are each investigating the threats made at the Hirst home in Huntington Beach and on the Newport Harbor campus, where Hirst and Sheridan both teach. Vossen said he couldn't comment on the ongoing investigations, but added, "A small pocket of individuals are not necessarily responsible for the larger program, but unfortunately it only takes a few individuals or an individual to cause problems."

Parents of players on last season's team have been outraged about the way the school has handled the accusations.

Rob Rettig, Mark Okey and Rufus Wade each said their sons, who played last season for Hirst, have been falsely accused of making the threats. Rettig said a campus police officer last month pulled out his son and five other players from class and questioned them about threats made at the Hirst home on March 12.

"You know why you're here," Rettig said the officer told the six players. "They said, 'No.' The officer got upset, saying, 'Of course you know why you're here.' They saw copies of the notes left at Hirst's home and the officer put them in front of them."

Okey, the booster club president, and Wade each said they felt the school expected their kids to be involved.

Okey and Rettig said they, along with other parents, spoke out during a meeting on campus on March 7, when Vossen reintroduced Hirst as the coach. Hirst had stepped down in January for personal reasons, the third time in four years he had taken a leave of absence from the program.

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