A former basketball player at Hamilton High School told a federal court jury Tuesday that coaches Ted Anderson and Eldridge Henry routinely paddled him and other players for missing layups and making other mistakes in practices.
Martin Nolan, 19, said the punishment, referred to as "receiving wood," was administered to players' backsides as they placed their hands on chairs and bent over.
He said Anderson also punched him in the chest with a closed fist and referred to him in insulting street language during a tournament in Los Angeles in December 2003.
That incident, he said, prompted him to transfer to Central High School the next semester, causing him to lose his last year of basketball eligibility.
"He said, 'You're a bitch,' and he advised me not to shoot the ball anymore," said Nolan, a 6-2 guard who now plays for Crichton College and hopes to advance to another collegiate program. "It just basically tore me up emotionally."
His testimony came on the first day of trial in a suit filed by his father, Nathanial Nolan, against the coaches, former Hamilton principal Sonny Hicks and Memphis City Schools.
The Nolans, who are represented by attorney William Winchester, claim the city school system failed to stop the abusive use of corporal punishment.
Defense attorneys argue that the alleged abuse was not serious enough to rise to the level of a constitutional violation.
Anderson, known to players in his highly successful program as "Coach A," was removed from his longtime coaching position in June 2004 by Schools Supt. Carol Johnson and transferred to Ridgeway Middle School, where he teaches history.
The superintendent testified Tuesday that although corporal punishment was legal in the city schools at that time, the policy did not allow its use on students for missing free throws or layups.
The school board banned corporal punishment in November 2004.
Johnson also accepted Hicks' resignation in January 2004 when he failed to report and discipline a coach who fathered a child by a student and then tried to get her to have an abortion.
The Nolans' civil trial before U.S. Dist. Judge Bernice Donald resumes today.
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