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SD228 suspends Hall of Fame basketball coach in wake of DUI charge

Hillcrest High School head coach John Maniatis watches his team actiagainst Morgan Park High School Wednesday night December 29 2010

Hillcrest High School head coach John Maniatis watches his team in action against Morgan Park High School Wednesday night December 29, 2010 at the final of the 2010 Hillcrest Holiday Classic in Country Club Hills, Illinois. | Art Vassy~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 3, 2014 6:36AM



Long-time Hillcrest girls basketball coach and social studies teacher John Maniatis has been suspended without pay, with the intent of having his employment terminated at the Country Club Hills school, school district officials decided late Thursday night.

After a four-hour closed session at Bremen High School, District 228 board members, adopted a resolution authorizing the dismissal of Maniatis for what were described as five reasons. District 228 superintendent Bill Kendall declined to comment on what the five reasons were.

The resolution passed on a 6-1 vote.

“I’m stunned at the procedures that were implemented to come to this conlusion,” Maniatis’ lawyer, Kelly Cartwright said after the board’s decision. “There is an appeals process that we’ll look into before the Illinois State Board of Education.”

Maniatis, 46, of Frankfort, was the subject of a special board meeting that was called in the wake of him being charged with drunken driving on April 4. Maniatis was arrested at 12:45 a.m. after failing field sobriety tests during a traffic stop at U.S. 30 and 93rd Avenue in Frankfort, according to police.

A Thursday hearing on the case at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet was rescheduled for May 6, as Maniatis’ attorneys asked for more time, and the arresting officer was not present.

Current and former players, as well as other supporters, packed Bremen High School’s library Thursday night to show support for Maniatis. After they spoke, the board went into a closed session about 7:35 p.m. The meeting behind closed doors lasted for more than four hours.

Maniatis was enshrined in the Illinois High School Association Girls Basketball Hall of Fame in a ceremony April 26 at Illinois State University.

He’s 13 wins shy of 500 career victories. His 487-100 record includes 15 regional, seven sectional and three supersectional titles. In 2010 and ’11, his Hawks teams finished second in the state in Class 3A and returned to the state finals for a third consecutive season in 2012, finishing third.

During Maniatis’ tenure, he never has had a losing season. In one stretch, from 1996 to 2004, Hillcrest won 87 consecutive conference games, the third-longest streak in IHSA history.

Maniatis, looking drawn after the meeting, declined comment.

“Absolutely despicable. Turn and run cowards. All of you, cowards,” an angry Robert Clark shouted at officials after the decision.

“The disappointment in what this so-called school board has put together is absolutely disgraceful,” said Clark, who has two daughters who attend Hillcrest. “We have no representation up here, as I can see. It’s typical beaurocracy and politics.

“Transferring my kids? Most definitely.”

The coach’s supporters defended him to the board.

“John Maniatis pushed me farther than the basketball court, he pushed me to do better in life and in the classroom,” former player Shannise Heady said. “He has done everything for all of us. He has been there 365 (days) for us, every day, in and out. We can call him any time. He’s there to help us, to talk to us.

“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. I’m having an anxiety attack right now because it’s crazy to me that one of my favorite coaches is going to be eliminated. He’s in my family. It’s hurting me to see that he’s put through this.”

The speakers, 15 in all, took their turns in orderly fashion. There were no raised voices, but the testimonies were passionate.

One of them was Danielle Lonie, a former Hillcrest player and now a teacher at Rich South in Richton Park.

“One of the reasons why I teach at Rich South High school and decided to become an educator was through his guidance and mentoring,” she said.

“Year after year of knowing him, he has shown nothing but exemplary behavior,” former Hawks player Janelle Hughes said. “This has to be the first time he has actually proved he is human. I think this took everybody by surprise, to be honest.”

Maniatis was enshrined in the Illinois High School Association Girls Basketball Hall of Fame in a ceremony April 26 at Illinois State University.

Sophomore Joshulyn Shepherd was one of six current players who expressed support for Maniatis before the school board.

“I don’t think it would be fair of you guys to take him out of my life,” she said. “As everyone else has said, he made a great impact on our lives. I want my turn.”

Contributing: Frank Vaisvilas



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