This story got lost in the Friday afternoon rush of people heading to happy hour, but Grambling St. University basketball made national news for the third time in a year that day, and unfortunately, not for anything good. Rick Duckett, the head coach who (likely) orchestrated this particular crime against hoop-anity back in January, reportedly resigned after one of his transfer players, Henry White, fell ill during workouts and later died.
Connecting the dots, it might make sense to presume that Duckett somehow felt responsible for White’s death, as the White family attorney asserts that it was common practice for Grambling coaches to run their players outside during intense summer heat and humidity, and had in fact done so that day (where two other players also fell ill). The problem with that theory is twofold: first, Andy Katz reported on Saturday that Duckett claims he didn’t resign at all; rather, he was fired (technically he’s on leave until Oct. 31, then he’ll be released). And not just him, but his entire staff of assistants save one (new interim coach Robert Washington, Jr.). Second, on the day that White collapsed during workouts, Duckett wasn’t even at practice. In fact, he wasn’t even on campus. Instead, he was instead having an undisclosed medical procedure of his own at the time.
So what in the name of Eddie Robinson is going on here?
We understand the legal concept of vicarious liability, and if Duckett directed his assistants to run players through the sweatbox known as Louisiana humidity against all better judgment, we could believe that university officials are looking to CYA here. But one question. Don’t Grambling football players also run drills in the sweatbox throughout August? In pads? If true, it would appear difficult for us to believe an argument that it’s ok for the football team to run outdoors, but not the basketball team.
It’s also clearly not performance-related. Grambling takes its football team very seriously; basketball is pretty much an afterthought. Duckett’s 6-23 record in his first and only year didn’t turn any heads, but the school’s had only two .500+ seasons since 1994, so there’s really nothing unusual about that. The last head coach, Larry Wright, wasn’t much better: over nine seasons, he turned in a record of 88-160 (.355). Furthermore, Duckett was successful at the D2 level, so there was reason to believe he could turn around the Grambling program.
The bottom line about this is that something is missing from the story – Grambling officials are leaving something out. Considering their recent history of making up stories about SWAC refs when it suits them, we’re not exactly surprised.