The Inside Story: Name of Paine College basketball court embroiled in controversy

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's supposed to be a big honor. Paine College wants to name its new basketball court after a former head coach. But some say the so-called honor is a slap in the face.

Crews at Paine College are putting the final touches on the school's new gym, and we got our hands on this memo detailing plans to name the court after former Coach Ronnie Spry.

"I really don't believe this is the appropriate way to honor a man like this. Honor the maintenance man ... yes. But not Coach Spry," said Bob O'Neal, a Coach Spry supporter.

Local business leader O'Neal is slamming the apparent olive branch.

"You not just talking about a coach. You are talking about an institution. You are talking about an icon," he said.

Coach Spry scored 500 wins in his more than 30-year tenure with the Lions only to be placed on administrative leave and forced to abruptly resign almost a year ago.

O'Neal wasn't the only one sounding off.

"I think this is a slap in the face myself. The man is an icon. The man has changed my life as a man," said a former Paine College basketball player.

But it will come at a cost. Naming rights require monetary gifts. The college claims naming the court after Spry is very appropriate.

"Well, you know, the measurement of someone's legacy should not be tarnished with negativity but celebrated with what is happening," said Brandon Brown, VP of institutional advancement.

O'Neal has a final request.

"Do it big if you are going to do something. Don't offer an olive branch," he said.

The naming is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 4. Supporters of the coach say he has not decided if he will attend the ceremony.

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