Pete Pullen, the longtime boys high school basketball coach at Dunbar, will not be retained as the Wolverines head coach.
He said he was told by Dunbar principal Crystal Phillips last Friday that Dayton Public Schools wanted to “move in a new direction.”
“There will be a new basketball coach for the boys team at Dunbar,” confirmed DPS director of public relations and spokesperson Marsha Bonhart on Monday.
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Pullen said it was his understanding that Chuck Taylor, a Roth graduate who starred on the Falcons’ 1981 Class AAA state title team, would be named the Wolverines’ new coach. Taylor has extensive AAU coaching experience, but none at the high school level.
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Bonhart said the position has not been finalized.
“We are still processing that position and DPS has not formally announced the new coach,” she said. “That process of selection is still moving forward. We will make the announcement soon.”
DPS, including director of athletics Mark Baker, has not announced any filled coaching positions for the upcoming winter seasons.
“If I fight it, will this fight be all basketball season, too?” Pullen said. “Yes, I’d like to go out on my own terms. I think everybody else is going to fight it for me, the alumni and my parents.”
Pullen and assistant boys basketball coach Darran Powell did not receive basketball coaching contracts until after the regular season began in 2016. Powell, also Dunbar’s head football coach, didn’t officially retain that coaching position until days before the preseason started this past July 31.
Dunbar boys: 13 seasons, 289-54 record, 4 D-II state titles, 6 final fours.
Dunbar girls: 6 seasons, 109-29 record, 44-0 Dayton City League record.
Coaching career: 16 league, 12 sectional, 11 district, 6 regional, 4 state titles.
Status: Retired teacher, former Dunbar athletic director.
Pullen, 63, oversaw the return of Dunbar as a Division II state power over the last 13 seasons. In that span he guided the Wolverines to four D-II state championships in 2012, ’10, ’07 and ’06 and took them to six state final fours. Among his Wolverines standouts were NBA players Daequan Cook (Class of 2006) and Norris Cole (’07) and many others who excelled in NCAA D-I basketball.
Prior to that he was Dunbar’s girls basketball head coach and was instrumental in that program joining the area’s D-II best. He also was the Belmont girls head coach for one season. In all, he has coached City League basketball the last 20 seasons, all but one at Dunbar.
Pullen, from Nashville, Tennessee, retired from teaching at Dunbar in 2016, but returned to the classroom in the 2016-17 school year at the request of DPS administration. He resigned as Dunbar’s athletic director last November, soon after a Dunbar football player was ruled academically ineligible.
That Ohio High School Athletic Association ruling resulted in Dunbar forfeiting two games, missing the playoffs and a refiguring of playoff qualifiers in at least three divisions. Most damaging, it ultimately led to accusations that Dunbar football coaches were told to “throw” a Week 10 game by Baker against rival Belmont so both teams would qualify for the postseason.
Following a lengthy OHSAA investigation and citing “a lack of administrative responsibility and institutional control,” the entire DPS school district’s athletic teams – boys and girls, middle school and high school – were placed on three years of probation and fined $10,000. Selected administrators also were ordered by the OHSAA to attend compliance meetings in Columbus and new administrators to complete entry-level training.
Besides a new direction, Pullen also said he was told he hadn’t adequately communicated with college coaches who were recruiting Dunbar players and that applying for the open boys position at Wayne High School would be held against him. The Warriors job was landed by former University of Dayton men’s assistant coach Kevin Kuwik, who resigned within a month to join the men’s staff at Davidson.
All coaching contracts for OHSAA-member schools are annually renewable at every level. Pullen said he had two interviews. Between those he said he was informed by Baker that he would be reprimanded for administrative lapses that happened during the Midwest Shootout, a 24-team summer basketball tournament that Pullen ran at Dunbar the last 12 years.
Pullen said he was asked by an auditor to produce receipts and signed contracts for the 2016-17 Shootouts that waived responsibility on DPS should a participant be injured, which he said he did. Between the coaching job interviews, Pullen said Baker informed him by email he would be reprimanded for not properly securing Shootout liability. Pullen said he refused to sign the document.
Pullen also said the first question he was asked in the follow-up interview was if he’d ever been reprimanded by DPS.
“To me, it’s a vendetta,” Pullen said. “I definitely feel like I’ve earn my keep at Dunbar.”
Bonhart would not confirm if Pullen faced a reprimand.
“That is a personnel issue within the district and we cannot address anything of a personnel nature,” she said.
Among the most storied boys basketball programs in state history, Dunbar was a program-best 28-0 in winning the 2012 D-II state title. After that perfect season “I should have walked away,” Pullen reflected. “But you go on for the kids and I still had the energy to do it.”
Dunbar won its first state title in 1987 (Class AAA) with Mike Haley as coach and Baker a standout senior guard. Dunbar also was a state Class AAA runner-up in 1984 and ’71.
Last season Dunbar (24-4) lost to Trotwood-Madison 83-54 in a D-II regional final at Fairmont’s Trent Arena, Pullen’s final game as the Wolverines coach. Since then, high-scoring guards DeVon Baker (16.6 points) and Caleb McConnell (13.9) transferred to SPIRE Academy in Geneva, Ohio, for their senior seasons.
Pullen succeeded Mitch Waterman as Dunbar’s boys coach. Landing another coaching position is unlikely, Pullen hedged.
“I really don’t want to,” said Pullen, who remains disabled after ripping a quad muscle from a kneecap last month and having it surgically repaired. “I’d like to end it where I am. But it might be a possibility because of this situation.”