Axed Coach Speaks Out

Tory Lathrop (center) coaching her now-former SPHS Tiger soccer team. Photo courtesy of Tory Lathrop

By most any measure, Tory Lathrop was very successful in her three years as girls soccer coach at South Pasadena High School, leading the Tigers to consecutive Rio Hondo League titles the last two seasons and winning Division 5 Coach of the Year once.

But most any measure seems not to include the measure of Principal Janet Anderson, who, Lathrop says, gave her the boot following last season, declining to renew her contract in a move that left the now-former coach baffled and hurt — and now, speaking out in more detail than she previously has in public.

“Long story short, it was not my decision to leave,’’ said Lathrop, who was replaced this month by Francisco Lopez, former girls coach at San Gabriel Mission High. 

“We’d had three really stellar seasons while I was there,’’ Lathrop added. “Yeah, it was really disappointing.’’

Speaking to the Review about her dismissal, Lathrop said the only explanation Anderson gave was, “The girls didn’t have enough fun.”

However, Lathrop also provided numerous emails to her from former players, indicating they did, in fact, enjoy their time on the Tigers under Lathrop.

Asked for her side of the story, Anderson, in an email said, “Consistent with our practice regarding personnel matters, I cannot comment on the situation.”

Anthony Chan, SPHS’s newly named athletic director, declined to speak on the subject, but did say the decision to move on from Lathrop “was made before I was even announced (as new AD)’’ this summer.

“Coaching-wise, it’s a year-to-year position, that’s pretty much what I can say,’’ Chan said.

Lathrop, a so-called “walk-on” coach not on staff at the high school, received a $4,400 stipend on a contract that ran from November to February.

Her exit was one part of a wider shakeup at SPHS athletics, with former AD Greg Luna losing that spot and Chan being hired in his place. Lathrop’s assistant coach, Danielle Jones, was not retained either. SPHS also has hired a new boys basketball coach, Ernest Baskerville.

“I think it was just a series of events that … to me, was not handled in the most professional way,’’ Lathrop said of her being let go. “I don’t feel I was given an opportunity to make any changes or address any concerns. I would have been happy to have a parent meeting. …

“To me, the majority of parents were happy with what we were doing (and) their kids were happy with what we were doing.’’

Lathrop described the meeting, with Anderson and Luna, in which she was told she would not be returning by saying, “It was her (Anderson) and Mr. Luna (in the meeting), and Mr. Luna had no notes, he had nothing to say or any input, which was kind of disappointing, because I thought that he and I had a good working relationship.

“To quote her (Anderson), she just thought that the girls didn’t have enough fun,’’ Lathrop said. “And I felt that that was a really unfortunate way to quantify everything that my staff and I had done and all the work the girls had put in.’’

Lathrop said she thought that Luna was in a lame-duck position throughout last year, having been told as early as October that he would be replaced as AD at the end of the school year — and thus may not have had any say over the coaching position.

“For a lot of us that enjoyed working with Greg, to find out later that he had been told back in October that he wouldn’t be continuing on but was basically kind of forced to continue in that role until the end of the year, I think that was kind of unfair,’’ Lathrop said.

As for the “not enough fun” allegation, Lathrop said, “In my 15 years of being a high school, college and club coach, I don’t think you can quantify a program based on the amount of fun that a kid may or may not be having.

“I get it, the parents are very involved, the players want to be involved in some of the decision-making, and I was open to that – I made sure that we had a great leadership group on both the JV and varsity teams, that they had an open line of communication with the coaches. That was something that was really big to me,” she said.

“So I think that if it had been the majority of the group not having quote-unquote ‘any fun,’ we would have heard about it a lot earlier and we would have addressed that as a staff and sat down with the parents and things like that, and that just never happened.’’

Indeed, Lathrop forwarded several emails to the Review from former Tiger players, expressing their regret at her departure and praising the deposed coach.

Among them:

• “I just wanted to say thank you for all of the effort, time, and commitment that you put into the girls soccer  program these past three years,’’ one former player wrote. “I really enjoyed my high school soccer experience and have so many great memories from it that I will remember forever. … Your dedication to the team … meant a lot to me and will not be forgotten.’’

• “I am very saddened by the news that you won’t be returning next year to coach the team,’’ another said. “I was really looking forward to working with you again, and enjoying my senior year with you as the coach.”

• Under the subject line, “I’ve enjoyed working with you,” a third former player wrote, “I heard that you and the school have parted ways and I’m sorry to hear that. You’ve been really great to work with and I hope you’re moving on to bigger and better things.”

All in all, Lathrop said of her dismissal: “I just wish there would have been a little more clarity and transparency and communication … as to the actual reasons why.’’

But she also said she wishes Lopez, the new coach, and the team well.

“I wish Francisco the best of luck,’’ Lathrop said. “He’s coming into a program that to me has a storied history and is coming off of three really fantastic seasons.

“Not to toot my own horn, but that’s some big shoes to fill. … I know he’s qualified … but I think it’s definitely going to be a year of transition for that whole group, from the JV to the varsity group.’’