Lindale community in support of suspended girls coach

Robert E. Lee's Ciara Johnson (right) tries to grab the ball as Lindale's DiMond Edmund plays defense in their basketball game on Tuesday. (Herb Nygren Jr. | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

VAN — On Tuesday night, the state-ranked Lindale girls basketball team remained unbeaten in district and increased its winning streak to 10 games with a 67-35 win over Van.

The Lady Eagles felt little in the form of celebration, however. That’s because the victory came without their head coach, who was suspended indefinitely this week. 

Greg Strawn, in his sixth season atop the program, said he was informed of the suspension during a meeting with LISD officials Monday. 

Strawn said he was told the reprimand was due to his behavior toward players during games.

Strawn said he did not want to comment further on the matter.

The Lady Eagles, well on the way to their fifth consecutive postseason appearance, improved to 21-8 overall and 8-0 in district Tuesday night. 

Following the game, many players and their parents discussed Strawn’s influence on the team and their own personal lives. The opinions were overwhelmingly positive for the coach, who has a reputation for being “tough” on his players during games. 

“They made a huge mistake,” sophomore guard Symonne Brookins said. “He’s a great man.”

Said junior guard Hannah Malone: “He made us who we are today. But he just doesn’t get any credit for what he does.” 

Added sophomore guard Paige Murphy: “They say they want what’s best for us. But what’s best for us is him being here.”

Multiple Lindale ISD officials, including superintendent Stan Surratt, turned down repeated interview attempts by the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Surratt attended a conference in Austin this week, but was at Tuesday night’s game. 

Strawn’s suspension came on the heels of a narrow win against Rains, during which the Lady Eagles trailed by 11 points at halftime.

Assistant Rene Greenhill is coaching the team in Strawn’s absence. 

A number of parents voiced their support for Strawn. 

“The only understanding why (he was suspended) is because he yells a lot and stomps his feet,” said Keith Malone, a team dad. “I think he’s only gotten one technical foul this season. We don’t think it’s right. He’s a great person off the field, an outstanding father. He’s a strong Christian man. ...He’s always there to support them.”

Said Shronda Murphy, a team mom: “I have a problem with him yelling at them to a certain level, but he needs to push these girls. He’s a coach on the court and a friend off the court.”

Added Carlotta Butler, also a team mom: “I feel like if they were wanting to do this, they should have waited until the end of the season. It’s obviously hurting these girls a lot.”

Strawn entered 2011-12 with an 88-70 record in five years at the helm, having led Lindale to four consecutive playoff appearances. The Lady Eagles entered the week ranked No. 17 by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, plus have surpassed 20 wins in back-to-back seasons. 

An estimated five players thought seriously about protesting the suspension and sitting out Tuesday night’s game, Mr. Malone said.

“I know my daughter is totally confused,” Mr. Malone said prior to the game. “She’s been trying to make decisions on whether she should play tonight. It’s just crazy to take the coach away from a team that beat the (fourth)-ranked team in the state (Liberty-Eylau) and has opportunities to go somewhere this year.”

Said Grammy Malone, a team grandmother: “We are in the middle of the season. This is very sad because it’s political what’s happening. How in the world could 99 percent of coaches stomp and yell and he’s the one who gets (suspended). A terrible injustice has been done.”

Added Tina Murphy, another team mother: “He would give his life for any of the girls.”

Regardless of the reason for Strawn’s suspension, the players simply want their coach back on the bench — whether he yells at them or not.

“Everyone sees coach Strawn yelling at us, but he also gets results from us,” said senior forward DiMond Edmond, a fourth-year member of the varsity. “He cares beyond basketball.”

Added sophomore forward MaKaylee Chapman: “I just want my coach back. That’s it.”

No. 17 Lindale 67, Van 35

Lindale15241216 —67

Van         87713 —35

LINDALE — H. Malone, 11; N. Malone, 11; Doss, 9; Peters, 7; Edmond, 7; Murphy, 6; Brookins, 6; Chapman, 6; Geathers, 4.

VAN — Raibon, 13; Thompson, 6; Carter, 4; Monds, 4; Daniels, 3; Cotton, 2; Calhoun, 2; Mobley, 1.

THREE POINT GOALS — L: Peters. V: Daniels.

RECORDS — Lindale 21-8 (8-0); Van (3-5).

NEXT UP — Canton at Lindale, 6:15 p.m. Friday; Van at Wills Point, 6:15 p.m. Friday.

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