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Coaches Who Left Van Cite Team's Rowdiness

July 22, 1987|MARCIDA DODSON | Times Staff Writer

Two assistant coaches, blamed for abandoning six Fullerton high school basketball players in a van alongside a desert freeway over the weekend, said Tuesday that they acted because the boys' behavior was making driving dangerous.

Sunny Hills High School assistant coach R. Lyndon Boop, 26, who was the driver, said he considered it more dangerous to continue the trip with the boys than it was to leave them on the side of the road for a short period.

"A bottle was thrown from the van into heavy traffic. Obscene gestures were made by the players which incited passing motorists to want to fight the players. There was continuous loud, vulgar language, loudness to the point of making communication impossible and resulting in dangerous lane changes," Boop said in a statement that he and fellow assistant coach Mark Kremer, 21, had prepared.

No Plan to Abandon

The coach added that he and Kremer did not intend to abandon the players. Indeed, he said, they returned to the van only to see sheriff's deputies drive off with the boys.

Boop acknowledged that, although he and Kremer considered going to the police, they did not know the location of the station. Further, he said, they were convinced that the players were safe, so "we felt the best course of action was to pick up the van, return home and contact the parents."

A Riverside County sheriff's deputy found the six players at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday in the van, which had been left on the shoulder of Interstate 10.

The players told authorities they had been stranded for two hours after their coaches became angry at them for losing a game at a tournament in Palm Springs and for playing a radio too loudly.

Boop said Tuesday that, after "repeated warnings," he pulled the van over and gave a final warning, which was ignored.

"After being subjected to this continual behavior for nearly an hour, we deemed the situation too dangerous for everyone on the freeway to continue and pulled off the road again," he said.

Boop said he and Kremer considered letting the boys--aged 16 and 17--drive the rest of the way home.

"However, due to the fact that they could not conduct themselves responsibly as passengers, we felt that they certainly could not conduct themselves as drivers," he said.

Boop said the situation inside the van created such an atmosphere of "hostility" that "we felt that a cooling-off period was necessary."

The two coaches left in a car driven by Boop's girlfriend and went to a nearby restaurant before deciding to return, he said.

"We sincerely regret leaving the players for the 1 1/2-hour interim, although we never abandoned them, as we returned to the van site with the intention of continuing the drive home with the players," Boop said.

Action by Officials

Both coaches were notified by the school Monday afternoon that they had been suspended, but about three hours later, after a meeting with school officials, they were reinstated, Boop said.

However, he and Kremer were told by head coach Steve White to "sit out or not participate" in the team's activities for the rest of the summer. White said no decision has been made about whether they will be reinstated in the fall.

"Their names will be brought up as coaches . . . and they either will be hired or rejected," he said.

Boop described himself and Kremer as "walk-on" coaches, non-faculty members who assist with athletic activities. Boop said he receives a stipend, but Kremer, a full-time student at California State University, Fullerton, is a volunteer.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department said an investigation is continuing into whether to press child-endangerment charges against Boop and Kremer.

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