CARMEL, Ind. -- The former girls basketball coach at Carmel Clay Schools has denied using any racist remarks, one of the reasons he said he was fired.
Tod Windlan was fired from Carmel in April, leading to some public outcry from the community including rallies with players and students calling for his reinstatement as coach.
In April, Carmel Clay schools told Call 6 Investigates the girls basketball program had become “divided” and “the administration determined a change in leadership was necessary.”
The firing came just days after the district mailed out letters to parents saying Windlan would be staying on as head coach.
Windlan sat down with Call 6 Investigates this week in his first on-camera interview since his termination as coach.
Windlan said several parents complained to the district's higher-ups about him.
They accused him of verbal abuse and using racial remarks against a few minority players, Windlan said.
For example, Windlan nicknamed player Tomi Taiwo the "Nigerian Nightmare."
Call 6 Investigates contacted Taiwo, who is now playing basketball for the University of Iowa, about Windlan's firing.
"I love Coach Windlan," said Taiwo. "It honestly is crazy that people would look at the name Nigerian Nightmare and think that he was insulting me. If anything, it is a compliment. He is saying that I am a nightmare for the other team on the court!"
Windlan said he made comments about another player's hair that someone misconstrued as racist.
"She would have pigtails that were little poofballs, or one poof ball, so I'd say oh you have two poof balls or you have one," Windlan said. "They manipulated that in their favor saying I said she had cotton balls."
Windlan said he would say things like "You're playing soft," and "You're just a cupcake." He said those things were common for a coach to say.
"If that's verbal abuse, I've been verbally abused my whole life," Windlan said.
The coach said, at times, he used profanity but said he never used it to belittle or embarrass players.
“I’d say 'What the hell is going on,' or 'Get the damn ball,' but none of it was viciously attacking,” Windlan said.
Windlan said after parents complained about him, the district conducted an investigation which included interviewing parents and staff.
“They would ask 'Has he ever embarrassed you verbally?' or 'Has he ever raised his fists in a threatening manner?'” Windlan said.
Windlan won three sectional championships at Carmel but said despite the wins, some parents were upset with their child’s amount of playing time.
“It’s an epidemic of parents getting out of their lane and overstepping their boundaries,” said Windlan. “It’s hard to be at Carmel High School with 5,000 kids and be on the varsity team. It’s hard work, and if it wasn’t, everybody would be doing it.”
According to a federal lawsuit filed last month against Carmel Clay schools by a former employee, the worker said the head coach was hostile and physically threatening to her.
Windlan said the allegations are unfounded.
“It’s a complete joke,” Windlan said.
The coach went to the office to look at his personnel file but said it was missing interviews with parents.
“I want the full investigation,” said Windlan. “I don’t know where it’s at.”
Windlan has hired labor law attorney Bill Groth to fight for those records.
“They’ve defamed and slandered me to the point that I know it’s not true,” said Windlan.
On Monday, Call 6 Investigates requested via email to view Windlan’s personnel file as well as a copy of the full investigation that led to his firing. The school district has not yet responded to our request.
Carmel Clay schools made headlines this month after an assistant swim coach was arrested for having sex with a student.
Windlan said as a safeguard, he avoided texting with students, something the district emphasized repeatedly.
“Do not text them, and if you do, it’s informational and not conversational,” said Windlan. “I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been to where that has been said over and over and over.”
Windlan has started a new head coaching job in Greencastle, and is trying to put the Carmel situation behind him. He says his biggest accomplishment is being a mentor to children.
“It’s not wins and losses, it’s impacting these kids’ lives to make them a better person one day,” Windlan said.
The coach wants parents, especially with kids in sports, to know their words and actions matter greatly.
“The parents got to know, it's OK for their kids to fail,” Windlan said. “It's how they respond to that adversity and how they overcome obstacles that are going to make them better in life. Let them face adversity. Today too many parents don't want their kids to face any adversity. "
The Carmel women’s basketball program has earned numerous accolades, including senior guard Amy Dilk winning the 2017-18 Girls Basketball Player of the Year Award.
The program’s season ended on February 10 with a loss to Zionsville.
In April, the district released this statement to Call 6 Investigates:
"Carmel Clay Schools is committed to providing high quality opportunities for students to succeed both in academics and athletics. We take great pride in ensuring our teachers and coaches lead by example and always put what’s best for the student first. Regarding the girls basketball program, Carmel Clay Schools employs its head girls’ basketball coach under a year-to-year contract that is reviewed annually. Unlike teachers under contract, there is no expectation that a coach will be continued in employment for the next season.
After the basketball season ended, Carmel High School administrators conducted a review of the program. This review was thorough and included multiple interviews with student athletes, members of the coaching staff as well as parents. The results of this review were also shared with the interim co-superintendents.
The review revealed that there were differences in opinion regarding the leadership provided by the head basketball coach. What became clear, however, was that the players and families involved in the program had become divided and the program could be adversely affected by that division. The administration determined a change in leadership was necessary.
Accordingly, for the overall good of the program, the administration decided not to bring back the head girls basketball coach for the 2018-19 season. Instead, Carmel Clay Schools will employ a new coach with the intention of providing a fresh start for the program to move forward on a unified basis under new leadership."
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