When he graduated from Phoenixville in 1980, Charlie Thompson had no idea that he would one day come back to coach the boys' basketball team. Nor could he have imagined the circumstances that gave him the opportunity to become the coach.
In 2004, the former Pittsburgh guard returned to Phoexniville as in-school detention monitor and became the freshman boys' coach. Initially, he was a volunteer; he was content to run the freshman program. But things changed dramatically between the end of the 2008-09 season and the start of this season. Bill Detwiler was dismissed as the Phantoms' coach by school officials after it was alleged he violated PIAA rules against recruiting when George Harper came from Philadelphia to play for the school.
After his dismissal by the school district, District 1 officials ruled he was in violation and suspended him from coaching at any PIAA school for one year.
Thompson was asked to take over the varsity program.
"I just hired my assistant head coach and my freshman coach," said Thompson as he prepared his team for this season's opener against Haverford tomorrow night in the Phamtoms' annual George Rocco Tournament.
Despite the public fanfare over the dismissal of Detwiler - the community was divided on this issue - Thompson said he doesn't think its had a major impact on his players, and they can pick up where they left off last season.
Phoenixville took first place in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division to qualify for the league playoffs and then went on to win the District 1 Class AAA championship. The championship was not taken away by District 1 officials or the PIAA, and the Phantoms finished with a 21-6 mark. They lost to eventual state champion Archbishop Carroll by three points in the state playoffs.
"I think the kids have put the incident behind them," Thompson said. "They played in a summer league in Phoenixville, and they've been concentrating on basketball."
Senior guard Corey Gordon agrees that the team has put the incident behind them.
"At first, I didn't know what to think," he said of the coaching situation. "I guess I was in shock. Now, we've put it all behind us. I think we have a great chance to redo last season and maybe grab another district championshsip."
Thompson is counting on Gordon to run the show as the Phantoms' point guard. He expects to start Gordon, guard Nick Jones, 6-feet-4 Harrison Deyo, Jamie Hennessey, and Mike Madson. The Phantoms missed Deyo when he was injured in the district final.
Thompson is also looking to Jake Lynch, a junior, and two sophomores, Rasheed Lawson and James Riggins.
"I think we have good balance," the coach said.