Unceremoniously, unexpectedly removed from bench at Renaissance, Vito Jordan leaves door open for return
DETROIT — Until recently, Vito Jordan, the boys basketball coach at Detroit Renaissance the past five years, thought he was getting ready to guide arguably the best team in the state for the 2018-2019 campaign.
Instead, he was shown the door.
Jordan was deeply hurt by the actions of the school, prompted by an administrative turnover, but still hopes there’s a chance to mend fences and is open to returning if given the opportunity.
“I’d go back, I’d go back for the kids, for those 10 guys that I love with all my heart. … They don’t deserve this,” Jordan said.
On September 11, the 33-year old Jordan was summoned to a meeting with Renaissance’s new principal Verynda Stroughter and told she was “opening up” the school’s boys basketball coaching position. If he wanted to, he was told, he could apply. Subsequently, Jordan has interviewed for his old post which remains open.
“I was completely blindsided,” said Jordan of what he was informed of at his meeting with Stroughter earlier this month. “She said she had heard some negative things about the program. When I asked her what those things were, she wouldn’t tell me. I can say with extreme confidence that I’ve carried myself with nothing but the utmost professionalism in regards to Renaissance basketball and the people in this community. … It’s a slap in the face.”
As it stands right now, Renaissance rolls out three Division I-college recruits in forwards Carrington McCaskill and Kylin Grant and guard Chandler Turner. They’re all threatening to transfer if Jordan doesn’t retain the coaching reins. The 6-foot-7.5 McCaskill is committed to Florida Atlantic.
The parents of all the Renaissance players had a meeting with Stroughter and other school administrators last week and voiced their collective displeasure with the situation and their desire for Jordan to return.
Renaissance went 15-7 last season.
Arriving at the school in 2013, Jordan was fresh on the heels of leading Detroit Community into the Class B state finals. He has a master’s degree in education and teaches at Randolph Vocational Career Center, located next to Renaissance. His teams at Renaissance appeared in consecutive PSL championship games in 2015 and 2016.
Stroughter held interviews Monday and initially decided on distinguished former Renaissance coach Mark White as Jordan’s replacement. However, after accepting the job, White backed out. White won two Class B state championships at the helm with the Phoenix (2004 and 2006) and currently coaches at River Rouge.
The school district issued the following statement:
“Renaissance High School has consistently been one of the highest performing academic high schools in the city of Detroit. This should also be the case athletically. As a new principal began her tenure this fall, she thoroughly reviewed all the school’s sports programs to ensure that the school was maximizing each and every opportunity for the success of our students. During her review of the boys basketball program, she determined, in her rightful discretion, to make a change in coaching staff to reach the next level of excellence. This also occurred in the girls program (Kiwan Ward retained her job following an interview). There was nothing improper, illegal or unusual with this decision. School-level principals have the discretion to make coaching changes. Coaches are not under binding contracts. … As the Detroit Public School District continues its rebuilding process, we will be unapologetic in our pursuit of exceptional talent. This includes a strategy to retain the best talent administratively, in the classroom with teachers and on the field/court regarding our coaches. This is what our children deserve.”
Jordan’s attorney Drew Patterson will file an emergency motion in court Wednesday seeking an injunction to, at least temporarily, prohibit Renaissance from filling the position, claiming Jordan has a valid contract for the upcoming school year and cannot be terminated without just cause.
“I’m mad, I feel disrespected,” Jordan said. “I feel like you’re short-changing these kids for ulterior motives. The principal had been there a week when she made this decision. When the parents asked for the reason I wasn’t the coach anymore, she wouldn’t provide answers. This feels very personal because these kids are like my own. It’s an awful situation for everybody involved.”