By PERRY A. FARRELL
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
Derrick Coleman has long professed his love for Detroit and its recently elected mayor, Dave Bing. Now he has a chance to help the struggling Detroit Public School League after being named the Detroit Public Schools’ commissioner of athletics Wednesday afternoon.
“I am thrilled to be taking this position,” Coleman said in a statement released to the media. “The bottom line is that I know personally the tremendous impact that sports participation can have on a young person. Sports teach discipline, camaraderie, dedication, accountability and teamwork.”
Coleman, 42, graduated from Detroit Northern before going on to, and playing basketball at, the same university Bing did, Syracuse.
DPS Director of Public Relations Steven Wasko of the said Coleman’s contract isn’t done, but he’s scheduled to make $135,000 per year, more than $40,000 than Lafayette Evans, the PSL’s former director of athletics.
Evans, who held the reins since 1987, retired this year after 42 years with DPS. Wasko said Coleman’s scope of responsibility would be wider than Evans, and the PSL could still seek personnel to work under Coleman, including a hire that could be labeled athletics director to oversee all PSL schools.
“I’ve been doing the work six or seven people used to do, and it will wear you down,” Evans said at the time of his retirement in September. “I would be concerned that the ambulance might not show up or the officials might not show up. Or I’d have to paint the cross-country course and get it cut.”
It had been rumored that Sharon Appling, the interim athletics director, was keeping the seat warm for Coleman.
“I had heard some rumors three weeks prior to this that it might happen, but I didn’t take it serious,” King football coach Dale Harvel said Wednesday. “I’m not shocked. I would’ve thought they would have taken some time and find a person who had been an administrator before. Maybe he can get us on track, but I don’t know. I thought they would wait until after football — one of the main sports — was over, but that’s how it goes.”
Detroit Southeastern coach Donshell English said Coleman’s popularity may have helped him get the job.
“That’s all right. We all know he’s a recognizable name,” English said upon hearing of Coleman’s hiring. “I’m thinking more financially than anything else. He can help us financially to help us get to where we need to be. It’s definitely rough. For the last 25 years we haven’t had a raise for athletic equipment as far as football — it has been $6,000. Somebody just sent us helmets, and you don’t know how badly we needed them. With him being a recognizable name and knowing a lot of people in the sports world, he could help our revenue.”
The hope is that Coleman can do for the PSL what Bing, his mentor, is attempting to do for Detroit.
“Detroit Public Schools has a storied sports history, with some of the world’s greatest athletes graduating from our schools,” Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager Robert Bobb said in a prepared statement Wednesday.
“Having Derrick Coleman join our team with a plan to shore up those programs is exactly what the system and its students need.”
Coleman said his first task includes assessing the school system’s needs and creating a plan to grow DPS sports programs while recruiting more students to participate.