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Van Nuys Draws Fire for Hiring

September 21, 1997|PAIGE A. LEECH

Dave Bessler, girls' volleyball coach at Van Nuys High, certainly hasn't suffered for his indiscretions.

Nine months after being forced to resign as coach for using an ineligible player--which led to the Wolves' athletic program being placed on a year's probation, among other penalties--Bessler was rehired by the man who asked for his resignation, Principal Russ Thompson.

Where is the logic in that? That's a fine way to punish somebody for running a sloppy program. Fire a guy after he gets the volleyball team banned from the playoffs for two years, then grovel at his feet until he agrees to return to his job.

What kind of message does that send to other coaches at Van Nuys? Or to student-athletes, for that matter?

"There should definitely be a suspension period--one season minimum," a local high school coach said. "If they can't find a coach, too bad. This was not a benign violation. It was not coincidental. It was very overt."

Thompson says he had no choice other than to rehire Bessler after Bessler's replacement, Patricia Denny, bowed out two weeks before the start of the season to enter a teaching credential program.

Yet several Van Nuys coaches disagree with their principal. They say Thompson rehired Bessler a day after Denny stepped down. Other coaches were never approached about taking the job, they say.

"It's a decision that I had to make," Thompson said. "There had to be a quick decision made in order to get somebody in there right away."

But even on the Van Nuys campus, it's an unpopular decision.

"Some of our staff members have expressed the opinion to me that they don't feel [Bessler] should be the first choice to coach," said Thompson, who did not want to hire a walk-on coach.

"I have confidence [in Bessler] and believe he is the best person on the staff to be coaching the volleyball team."

Bessler isn't going to win a popularity contest with many of his coaching colleagues.

"I'm fed up," said one coach, who believes Bessler's rehiring is another example of a disorganized administration at Van Nuys, which has had three athletic directors in nine months.

Bessler says he had no intention of coaching this season until he was approached by Thompson.

"At first I said I wouldn't take [the job]," Bessler said. "I felt the way it was presented [last year], I was [portrayed as] a criminal. When I saw the look on the girls' faces [at a team meeting], I said I'd take it."

He never should have been given that choice.

And now, it is Thompson who should be looking in the mirror asking himself, "What have I done?"


Never say never again.

Just ask the Lancaster football team, which posted its first-ever varsity victory in the final minutes Friday night.

Damon Carson outjumped two defenders and caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Vernon Smith with 2:47 remaining to lift Lancaster over Sultana, 7-0.


Monroe's running game is thriving like no other. Who would have guessed it?

The Vikings, under first-year Coach Sloan Bunting, are enjoying quite a honeymoon with their new double-wing offense.

Monroe rushed for 549 yards in 26 carries and rolled to a 56-13 victory over Wilson, the defending City Section 3-A Division champion.

A week ago, the Vikings ran for 502 yards in a 41-14 victory over Hoover.

Now, who were those four Monroe players who transferred to Kennedy in the summer?

Correspondent Mike Bresnahan contributed to this column.

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