Lehigh coach happy to be part of ‘basketball family’ again

LEHIGH ACRES, Fla.-In her first day back, Dawn McNew was just happy to be on a basketball court again.

“Just a tremendous sense of relief and so grateful to just be back as a family, as a basketball family again,” she said.

McNew, the head basketball coach at Lehigh Senior High School, and her two paid assistant coaches, Ed Hearyman and Ryan Lewis, were reinstated by the Lee County School District on Monday after being suspended for a video showing nine of their players rapping vulgar and sexually explicit lyrics that surfaced on social media.

“There is no probable cause for disciplinary action beyond the games-suspension already served,” district spokeswoman Amity Chandler said in a statement. “They are able to resume coaching duties effective today.”

The players, who were suspended from school for a week, were previously banned from postseason play by the district. The ban was lifted after several meetings between their parents, lawyers on both sides and district officials.

The video is not indicative of her player’s moral qualities, McNew said.

“If I had thought for one second that what was shown in the video would be an indicator of character of any of these boys, they certainly wouldn’t be in our program,” she said. “There’s two sides to every story and I’m just going to keep it short and sweet. They’ve certainly learned a really really tough lesson but they are really really good kids and we are just glad to be back at it.”

With four junior varsity players starting, the team won its district semi-final game on Wednesday and narrowly lost in the district final on Friday. The team’s next game in the double-elimination state tournament is on Thursday.

McNew’s return was something the players’ parents also wanted, said Bernard Edwards, who described her reinstatement as an “answered prayer.”

“I think either way the team would be okay, but it’s always better to have your head coach there,” he said. “The blessing flows down.”