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Diehl disputes details of investigation report

WARREN — Former Howland High School girls basketball coach John Diehl said he was miffed by a recent investigation report from the Howland Local School District.

Diehl was the Tigers’ coach for 26 seasons before it was recommended last month that his contract not be renewed. Diehl, who owned a record of 407-198 with four district titles, admitted being “shocked” by the school’s decision.

On June 23, the school district released a 15-page investigative report following a Tribune Chronicle public record request, that disclosed the reasons Diehl was investigated and essentially not renewed as a supplemental employee. The investigation was finished in early June and conducted by a Howland administrator.

CLICK HERE to read Howland Local Schools investigative report.

There were three key allegations made toward Diehl by “parents” whose names were not disclosed. The names of the 26 people interviewed were kept private, except for employees of the school. One of the complaints was that Diehl favored certain players and used “bully-like” behavior while singling out players.

There were conflicting reviews regarding this issue from current and former players who were interviewed by the unnamed school administrator. Some said he showed heavy favoritism, while others said there was none at all.

The report concluded that “Diehl’s conduct constituted harassment” under board policy.

“The majority of players (even those who ultimately support him) and an assistant coach recall the favoritism and harsh treatment of certain players,” the report stated. “This includes intense yelling and hurtful critiques, as well as making examples of players and singling them out.”

Diehl refuted the allegations.

The 64-year-old admitted to being a fiery coach with a blunt-but-deliberate approach, but he denied ever having favorites.

“You’ve got to be intense,” he said. “If the coach isn’t intense, then the players don’t play intense. I don’t care what anybody says, you’ve got to be intense. But I don’t have favorites. I’ve always played the kids I think give the team the best opportunity to win.”

Another allegation was that Diehl created an intimidating environment when it came to injuries.

The report did not find substantiated evidence to corroborate that claim. Diehl said there were girls who played with “nagging injuries,” but added that he always took injuries “very seriously.”

The final concern was that Diehl allegedly made pointed references to players’ looks.

According to the report, Diehl was alleged to have a “top 5 prettiest girls” list and told a player that if he was 50 years younger, he would have dated her. It also said he had a picture collage of former players in bikinis posted in his office.

In response to having a list of prettiest girls, Diehl said, “That’s an absolute lie.”

“Every year, the girls ask me if they’re prettier than Canfield, and that’s our rival,” he said. “What are you going to say? They asked this year, ‘Are we prettier than Canfield? Are we prettier than Canfield?’ I’m forced to say, ‘Yeah, we’re prettier than Canfield.’

“Then they asked me to rank them, and I go, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’ I didn’t, and I don’t.”

Diehl said the other reports twisted the truth.

He explained that when he told a player he would date her if he was 50 years younger, he was trying to convey how proud he was of the way she played that night and of her recent decision to go to college.

“The way the night went, that young lady just told me she was going full-time to Youngstown,” Diehl said. “She was a nice girl. She was a senior. She just played a great quarter — she was the only one that was hustling — and I mentioned that after the quarter, ‘You know, you hustled really well tonight. You’re going to college, and if I was 50 years younger, you’d be the kind of girl I’d like to go out with.’

“That’s all that was. … Her mom texted me today that she was upset by the fact that it got put in the paper. She wanted make sure that I knew they weren’t unhappy about (my comment).”

Diehl also elaborated on why he had a picture collage of former players, some of whom were wearing swimwear.

He said the picture in question was taken while the team was at a summer basketball camp in Daytona Beach, Florida. Diehl said he was asked by a father of one of the girls to get in the picture. The players eventually made a collage for Diehl that had several basketball-related photos in it, along with the one on the beach.

“We were at a basketball camp in Florida, Daytona Beach, in a team camp in the summer,” he said. “Their father took the picture. They made me get in the picture, and their father took it. So, they made me up a little collage that had four or five different pictures in a frame, and that happened to be one of the pictures that was in the frame.”

Diehl said he is retiring from coaching. The school district has not yet announced a replacement.

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