Jordan files suit to keep job as Renaissance basketball coach

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Vito Jordan

Detroit — Vito Jordan has filed a lawsuit through his attorney Andrew A. Paterson to keep his job as head boys basketball coach at Detroit Renaissance.

Verynda Stroughter took over as principal of Renaissance this month and during her review of the boys varsity basketball program, she determined, in her discretion, to make a change in coaching staff to reach the next level of excellence, according to a statement released by district spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson.

The lawsuit states that Jordan has an oral agreement from the former principal and interim principal at Detroit Renaissance and Stroughter doesn’t have the authority to terminate without just cause.

“The principal of Renaissance High School and Superintendent Dr. Vitti owe the boys basketball players and their parents an apology,” Paterson said in a statement. “There was absolutely no legal basis for Principal Stroughter to unlawfully terminate Coach Jordan without just cause and due process.

“We will be respectfully requesting the Court to hold an emergency hearing by next Monday to enjoin the enforcement of Principal Stroughter’s unlawful termination of Coach Jordan. The players and their parents deserve to know ASAP whether Coach Jordan will be leading his team or whether they need to find a new school to enroll in the statutory deadline.”

Karen Wilson, mother of standout 6-foot-7 senior Carrington McCaskill, a Florida Atlantic commit, plans to schedule another Parents Meeting with Stroughter for Thursday. She had one last week as well.

“We’re going to attempt to meet with Ms. Stroughter, the parents, once again tomorrow to possibly see if we can come to some resolution with the issue at hand,” Wilson said. “Hopefully tomorrow we can get to some resolution behind all of this.

“At this point the kids should be enjoying their senior year, looking forward to homecoming, looking forward to the upcoming season and just their whole senior life and not be consumed with who is going to coach them. It’s just unfortunate for the kids. Again, some of the other players had college coaches wanting to come into the school and evaluate them during this open evaluation period and it’s unfortunate because we haven’t had an opportunity to have open gym other than that first week of school.”

Wilson doesn’t want to have her son go to prep school in Florida or elsewhere, feeling she had him at home until a year from now.

“That would be a last resort and I’m hoping it won’t get to that point,” Wilson said. “I’m hoping Coach Vito will be able to coach this season and then she can make her assessment of her vision of where she wants to go with regards to boys basketball in March and April and move forward from there.”

Jordan has been head coach at Renaissance the last five years, guiding the team to consecutive PSL championship game appearances in 2015 and 2016, then a 15-7 record last season, losing to U-D Jesuit in the Class A district final.

Jordan goes well beyond coaching, taking his players to eight camps this summer, including Michigan State, Ohio State, Buffalo, Cleveland State and others.

Dionne Jackson, mother of Iowa left tackle A.J. Jackson had high praise for Jordan. Jackson played multiple years on Renaissance’s basketball team under Jordan's guidance.

“A.J. would not be where he is right now if it wasn’t for the basketball program,” Dionne Jackson said. “Vito has been well past a coach. I owe him everything. A.J. would not be where he is right now on scholarship if it wasn’t for Vito. I’m a single parent. I don’t have support from my family and I have a boy that lives in the city of Detroit and it’s tough. You need a man and A.J’s a man’s boy and Vito and his father helped him.”

District spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said Stroughter is not constrained by time considerations.

"There's no timetable for her (Stroughter) to name a coach and she's going to start the process essentially starting over to find a candidate, and as I understand it the current coach has applied for the position."