ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two basketball coaches who are the parents of a popular WNBA player are finding themselves in the middle of a firestorm over race and accusations of unsportsmanlike conduct after they were fired from a New Mexico high school.
Cecilee Moses and Rick Schimmel, the parents of Atlanta Dream guard Shoni Schimmel, were coaching the Santa Fe Indian School boys team against a local rival last week when Rick Schimmel said the athletic director for the other school shoved him in the back and refused his requests to have fans removed for purportedly yelling a racial slur at his players.
"Get off the court. This is not the damn reservation," Tom Manning, the St. Michael's High School athletic director, is accused of saying in a statement Schimmel made to police.
The confrontation unfolded at the start of halftime, when the athletic director was apparently clearing the court so the Pony Express dance group could perform, according to a police report.
After the halftime show ended, Manning told police his physical contact with Schimmel amounted to a tap on the shoulder to tell him his players could go back out and warm up. Manning's version of the dispute also alleged Schimmel became "irate and confrontational" after the encounter.
In statements to the Santa Fe New Mexican, St. Michaels denied the allegations against Manning for his behavior and shot down accusations he made a racial remark. Meanwhile, a Santa Fe Indian School official apologized for unsportsmanlike conduct at the game, but the school also said it would look into reports of racially charged remarks at the game, the newspaper reported.
Schimmel and Moses were let go as coaches following the Feb. 17 game at St. Michael's High School in Santa Fe.
Moses became the Santa Fe Indian School's boys team head coach last season. Schimmel was her assistant coach.
They arrived in Santa Fe as a pair of high-profile hires for helping develop their daughter Shoni Schimmel's early playing skills on the Umatilla reservation in Oregon. Both Moses and Shoni Schimmel were also the focus of a documentary called "Off the Rez" that was filmed while Moses was coaching a high school team in Portland, Oregon, and Schimmel was a high school junior.
Schimmel later became a WNBA first-round draft pick out of Louisville, where she re-introduced "rez ball" — a fast-paced, spontaneous style of play on reservations — to the NCAA.
In her first WNBA season, she became the league's first rookie All-Star Game MVP.
She hasn't commented publicly on her parent's dispute stemming from last week's game. But she did appear in a Santa Fe New Mexican photo sitting near her parents at another game between the Santa Fe Indian School and St. Michael's on Wednesday.
At that game, Rick Schimmel reportedly wore a T-shirt protesting the racial slur he says was directed at his players. Words scrawled on the front said Native Americans are not the racial slur that fans purportedly called them.
Santa Fe police said they intended to complete an investigation of the confrontation.