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Error in judgment

Published August 12. 2010 05:00PM

There's no argument that Richard Oertner made a serious mistake.

He admits it.

And, as a result, the 10-year Northern Lehigh basketbll coach may soon be out of a job.

The district wouldn't reveal what Oertner did to deserve such disciplinary action, only describing the incident as an occasion in which he improperly transported a player.

Was it wrong? Apparently. Oetner told the board he would do things differently if he had it to do over again.

"I made a mistake transferring the student," he said. "I wish I could take it back, but I can't."

Was what Oetner did dangerous? The board apparently thinks so. Otherwise, why would they be considering such drastic action.

Coaching Northern Lehigh's basketball team is Oetner's dream job. A former star player himself, for the past 10 years he has led the team to successful seasons, compiling a 162-98 overall record. Included in his record is the 2007-08 District XI 2A Championship.

The coach is popular with his players. At no time, in the 10 years he has been at the helm, has there been any occasions where Oertner's conduct necessitated any disciplinary action. He ran a clean program.

Now, because of one serious error in judgment, a situation where he apparently put a player in danger of injury, that career may be over.

There is no doubt that Oertner is sorry for his actions. The day the incident occurred he apologized to the parents and the student involved.

He also told the board he would be willing to donate his salary for next season back to the school, or be placed on probation. That's how much he wants to keep on coaching.

We're not, by any means, condoning what Coach Oertner did. He doesn't condone it himself.

"I wish I could take back my poor choice," he told the board. "It was a mistake, it was wrong. I'm hopeful that you'll allow me to retain my position as boys basketball coach."

Before the board tabled action on Oertner's future earlier this week, he was given the opportunity to resign.

He refused, saying, "I have a commitment to the kids. I have committed to the district for many years, and I care too much about the kids to resign."

We believe him. And we think the board should give him another chance. One bad deed shouldn't erase 10 years of positive performance.

Bob Urban

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