Harrison County

A Long Beach coach claims he was dismissed for being too old to lead the basketball team

Joel Boone, who coached Long Beach boys basketball in 2016-2017, says he was passed over for a full-time coaching position because of his age. Boone, in his 70s, is suing the Long Beach School District, which hired a much younger man for the job.
Joel Boone, who coached Long Beach boys basketball in 2016-2017, says he was passed over for a full-time coaching position because of his age. Boone, in his 70s, is suing the Long Beach School District, which hired a much younger man for the job. amccoy@sunherald.com File

Joel Boone, former Long Beach boys basketball coach, says he was dismissed after the athletic director said he wanted someone “younger” to build the 7th-12th-grade program.

Boone, who is in his mid-70s, claims age discrimination in a lawsuit filed against the school district in federal court in Gulfport. He wants to be reinstated and says he should receive back pay, damages and attorney’s fees.

Boone, represented by Watson & Norris law firm in Jackson, said the school district hired him in August 2016, when the previous coach left on the first day of school. Boone worked as basketball coach and part-time physical education teacher.

In the spring of 2017, he said, then-Athletic Director Forrest Williams told Boone that he was “looking for someone ‘younger’ to build program.” Williams told some of the parents the same thing, the lawsuit says.

Williams, now assistant principal at Harper-McCaughan Elementary School, referred calls to communications director Leigh Anne Biggs, who said the school district has not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit and she could not comment because she has not seen it.

A full-time coach’s position was posted while Boone was still heading the basketball program. During his career, Boone said, he led teams to 600 wins and a state championship.

Boone said he subsequently discussed moving into a full-time position with Superintendent Jay Smith, who has since retired, but the finance director determined Boone’s salary would be too high because of his years of experience.

When he returned from spring break, Boone said, he was informed that his part-time position as a physical education teacher was being eliminated. He said he was not given a chance to apply for the full-time coach’s job.

Boone said he was subsequently offered and turned down teaching positions, one of them full time, without coaching duties. The district hired a 28-year-old to fill the coach’s position, the lawsuit says.

Current Athletic Director Terry D’Angelo told the Sun Herald that Brandon Cobb is the basketball coach. She said that he is in his late 20s or early 30s but she did not know his exact age. She said that she was unaware the lawsuit had been filed.

Anita Lee can be reached at 228-896-2331 or @CAnitaLee1
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