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Other Coaches Question Roosevelt Student Transfers

January 09, 1994|KIRBY LEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Members of the Roosevelt High girls' basketball team characterize Lorenzo Garcia as dedicated and caring, a coach who goes out of his way to help in time of need.

Parents and school administrators praise the sixth-year coach as hard-working, citing his fund-raising efforts to purchase uniforms and warm-ups and put on awards banquets.

He is also successful on the court.

Garcia, just one win away from his 100th coaching victory, has guided the Roughriders to two City Section basketball titles and four conference championships. This season, Roosevelt is off to a 9-1 start.

"He is committed to showing you can have a good program at an East L.A. school," Roosevelt Principal Henry Ronquillo said. "Lorenzo goes out of his way to put in that extra mile for his team." How far is open for debate.

Opposing coaches allege that Garcia abuses his power as Roosevelt's dean of students to bring transfers into his program. This season, Roosevelt has three opportunity transfer players on its roster, including two starters.

"It's blatant and obvious what he does, but it's done in a way that no rule prevents it," Marshall Coach Wendy Triplett said. Triplett, along with Coleen Ota of Garfield, Cathi Cornell of Eagle Rock, Mat Taylor of Fremont and Sharon Robertson of South Gate, are among the coaches who have had a falling out with Garcia. Perhaps the most serious allegation has been made by former Washington Coach Phil Chase, now a teacher at Marshall. In a letter to the City Section office last month, Chase charged Garcia with "chicanery" and questioned the validity of the transfer of starting guard Jennifer Brambila.

Chase, who coached Brambila on an Amateur Athletic Union team last spring, said Brambila told him she intended to transfer to Roosevelt without changing residences "and that it had all been taken care of."

Garcia said he has no contact with transfers until they are cleared by Athletic Director Bernard Terry and dismisses the allegations as "ridiculous."

"Everybody wants to take a shot at a winner," Garcia said. "If they want to attack me, that's fine. Everything is legal and I've done nothing wrong. What upsets me is forcing my players to deal with rumors and to go through this with a dark cloud over their heads."

Chase's letter has also triggered a investigation by City Commissioner Barbara Fiege. Fiege declared Brambila ineligible Friday morning but suspended that ruling shortly before the Roughriders' game that afternoon against Bell after Roosevelt administrators cited a conflict between City and CIF rules regarding transfers.

The CIF prohibits transfers from participating in varsity competition for 12 months unless a change of residence is made. However, City rules allow non-discipline opportunity transfers to compete if permission is granted by the sending and receiving schools.

Wilson Principal Ramon Castillo said Brambila was granted an opportunity transfer requested by her mother, based on Brambila's need for "a change of environment." He said there were no restrictions on Brambila's involvement in athletics.

Roosevelt Assistant Principal Arturo Del Rio said he has found no irregularities with the July transfer, based on discussions with Brambila who denies Chase's allegations.

The transfers of junior starting forward Hilda Perales from South Gate and sophomore reserve center Michelle Rodriguez from Eagle Rock are not being investigated.

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