UCLA basketball Coach Steve Lavin said Thursday that he had spoken to suspended center Jelani McCoy a day earlier, and emphasized that there was no rift between them.
And in a letter to The Times, McCoy's cousin, Veronica Wilson-Coleman, discounted what she termed speculation about a problem between coach and player. She said that McCoy had been spending time with her after reports surfaced that McCoy would not be reinstated to the team this season, and that he respected Lavin.
" . . . While there may have been conflicts between the two men in the beginning of their relationship, such is no longer the case," Wilson-Coleman wrote. "The adjustment period is over and there is now mutual respect and concern."
McCoy and Kris Johnson have been on indefinite suspension for what UCLA said were violations of athletic department and team rules.
Lavin, who hadn't spoken to McCoy since ESPN reported Monday that McCoy had not met the criteria for reinstatement, said McCoy left messages for him twice and finally reached him Wednesday.
"Our relationship is good, probably contrary to things that have been said," said Lavin, who also reiterated that there had been no change in McCoy's indefinite suspension.
"He knows it's satisfying a set of circumstances. If [McCoy and Johnson] meet the criteria, they could be back on the team. If they don't, they're not going to play basketball at UCLA again."
Lavin said he understood why a 19-year-old player might not be eager to speak to his coach or parents amid the public controversy.
"When my parents disciplined me, I would get mad," Lavin said. "I said, 'I'll really show my parents! I won't talk to them for a month!' "
In her letter, Wilson-Coleman said McCoy and a close friend--apparently former USC and current Raider rookie defensive tackle Darrell Russell--had been calmly playing with her 3-year-old son in recent days.
"I do not proclaim that Jelani is completely without blame for the situation at hand, but I would expect others who willingly cast themselves into this arena to exercise greater responsibility," Wilson-Coleman wrote.