East Hampton will be playing for the Shoreline boys basketball championship Friday night. Hale-Ray’s season ended last week.
But the two programs are still working to move forward after an incident in January resulted in a hard foul on an East Hampton player, then the eventual one-game suspension of East Hampton coach Parker Strong.
Strong circulated the video of the incident to two players he is associated with from AAU. The Hartford Courant first reported this story last week.
Strong indicated last month to Hearst Connecticut Media that Colin Baker suffered a broken wrist in the Hale-Ray game on Jan. 9. In a video obtained by Hearst, it showed two Hale-Ray players, Connor Egan and Noah Sanders, made contact with Baker on a drive to the basket, resulting in a foul. Baker broke his left wrist on the play.
According to the Courant, Strong circulated the video of the play in question “and text messages to two basketball players who also compete in the Shoreline Conference that Strong knows because he coaches them on an AAU team.”
Paul Smith, the superintendent of schools for East Hampton Public Schools, indicated in a statement to Hearst that Strong had indeed sent the clip to two Hale-Ray players following the game in question.
“Though Strong knew both boys from Hale-Ray as he had coached them as part of an AAU Basketball program, contacting them after one of our players was injured is not considered appropriate behavior by a head coach,” Smith said.
Tom Egan, Connor’s father, said there were people making comments from the stands at his son in Hale-Ray’s next game against Old Saybrook, leading some of these fans to be removed from the gym.
Egan indicated an email sent to “our (Hale-Ray’s) head coach, AD and principal” sent by Strong on Jan. 12 that stated, “Good afternoon, I sent a text message to two members of your basketball team out of frustration and that was wrong. I apologize for my action. This is not what I want to represent within my school and program. I apologize for any problems this caused. If I can go back and undo it, I would.”
Egan said he didn’t receive the email until two weeks after it was sent.
Strong was suspended for East Hampton’s regular-season finale against Portland. He said in a text message that he had no comment on the incident. “We are very focused on playing a very difficult opponent in Cromwell in the conference finals tomorrow night.”
Baker did return from the wrist injury in time for the Shoreline Conference tournament, which began last Saturday. East Hampton, 22-0, will attempt to win its first Shoreline title Friday at Wilbur Cross against Cromwell.
According to the Courant, a classmate of Egan’s received a “threatening text” from a student at inquiring who Egan was.
“He was asking for information on my son because he hurt his friend Colin really bad and needs to be snuffed,” Egan said.
That student from Bacon Academy who sent the alleged text was arrested, according to the Courant.
Hale-Ray decided on Feb. 19 to forfeit the rematch at East Hampton. According to the CIAC, Hale-Ray submitted the forfeit for an “administrative decision based on safety concerns.” The CIAC normally lets schools handle its own personnel matters.
“East Hampton High School is disappointed that the game scheduled on Monday, February 19 was forfeited by Hale-Ray. Our high school respects Hale-Ray as a neighbor and positive rival in all sports,” Smith said in the statement. “The East Hampton athletic department and administration will reach out to Hale-Ray to make sure that all of our teams continue to have a relationship that continues to stress fair play and good sportsmanship.”
Egan said Connor “didn’t play in (subsequent) games the way he wanted to. He played in order to protect himself. He played safe.” Connor’s high school basketball career concluded against Old Lyme on Feb. 21.
“I would have liked to see the coach apologize directly to Connor for propagating this kind of behavior. Personally, I think he has waited too long,” Egan said. “Honestly, I don’t know if they were the only players he texted. For him to turn around and incite this instead of squashing this is ridiculous.”