Detroit — Venias "Vito" Jordan Jr. was hoping to get his job back as head boys basketball coach at Detroit Renaissance on Tuesday afternoon at Wayne County Circuit Judge Martha Snow’s courtroom inside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
It didn’t happen. Snow denied a temporary restraining order on an emergency motion, allowing Renaissance High School principal Verynda Stroughter to keep John White as the head coach.
Jordan will get a second opportunity to get his job back Oct. 19 at 9:30 a.m. at the U.S. District Court in Detroit, where it will be determined if Jordan’s firing by Stroughter was unlawful. Former Renaissance principal Anita Williams said Jordan agreed to an oral contract this summer before she accepted a similar position in Birmingham, Ala.
Jordan was head coach at Renaissance the last five years, guiding his teams to consecutive PSL championship game appearances in 2015 and 2016 and to a 15-7 record last season.
Stroughter, however, re-opened the position last month. Jordan says the new principal told him she had "heard some bad things about the boys basketball program ..."
Stroughter offered the position to River Rouge head coach Mark White, who accepted, then turned the offer down and later was fired at River Rouge. Jordan has filed a lawsuit through his attorney, Drew Paterson, in an effort to keep his job.
Stroughter stated in an affidavit that she gave her reasoning in firing Jordan, saying he sent an inappropriate text to a male student, along with bullying and swearing of players during games.
“It’s very old, it was three years old and was thoroughly investigated,” Paterson said of the claims. “He was suspended, they investigated and brought him back in and were happy. In fact, there’s a message from the student who received a text message about the context of it. They were joking.
“There’s a federal case for violating his constitutional right to due process (Oct. 19). She hired a new coach before they even interviewed him. Why do you go through an interview process, that’s a denial of due process. Everything she’s done in this case is outrageous.”
Jordan says the text message in question "wasn’t an inappropriate text message towards (the student). The kid, me and him texting back and forth and we joked, he didn’t turn that text message in to any administration. A disgruntled parent of a child who had quit the team three months later took that message and then went and used it against me. That never came from the kid who played on the team."
“He (receiver of the text) wrote a letter on my behalf saying, ‘My senior year there was a miscommunication or interaction between me and Coach Jordan. Coach Vito has never been an untrustworthy character when it comes to dealing with students, staff or even parents. When I played for Coach Vito it was always a brotherly/family bond as a team. The message that I sent to my teammates in an imessage groupchat was simply to share a silly moment that me and coach had. I never took anything that happened out of context because I know that being inappropriate never was in his intentions.’”
Jordan says his character has been threatened and that could play a role in his future.
“That was what they didn’t say, that they were trying to use that against me,” Jordan said. “To throw me under the bus, make me seem like I’ve actually done something bad in the coaching position is completely wrong. If that was the case Anita Williams would have fired me a long time ago.”
Forward Carrington McCaskill said he wants Jordan back at Rennaissance. Jordan said players consistently have texted him to see if he would be back.
“This is the first time that I’ve heard of this coming from Principal Stroughter,” McCaskill said. “I talked to her about what the bad stuff she was hearing and she never told me. I knew about all of this and we got this addressed three years ago. Don’t you think the old principal would have fired him if there was any truth to it?"
McCaskill said repeatedly he would not play for anyone other than Jordan, despite being one of the top five players in the state.
“It would be hard, I don’t know how I would mentally be able to do that,” McCaskill said. “I’d probably go to the weight lifting and running workout so I could keep myself in shape, but I don’t want to be coached by anyone but Coach Vito.”