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Former pro reinstated to rec centers

Two-year ban too much, county says

POSTED: September 20, 2013 12:28 a.m.
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Wilkins

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Retired NBA player Gerald Wilkins returned to Forsyth County this week to continue coaching youth at local recreation centers.

Forsyth County revoked a two-year suspension that had been issued to Wilkins for an Aug. 8 incident at the Old Atlanta Recreation Center.

The parks and recreation board upheld the suspension following an appeal hearing at the Sept. 10 meeting, but Wilkins said the county asked to meet with him afterward and the decision was reversed.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt issued a statement Tuesday explaining that a county ordinance had been “misinterpreted.”

“A two-year suspension was not warranted under county policies,” Merritt stated. “We apologize to Mr. Wilkins and regret this misunderstanding.”

He added that staff met with Wilkins on Tuesday “to discuss our decision and his continued use of county facilities.”

Wilkins said Wednesday he was grateful for the amicable resolution of the issue, and is glad to get back to doing what he loves.

The 13-year NBA player, who spent the majority of his career with the New York Knicks, has been coaching clients at the county’s Old Atlanta Recreation Center in south Forsyth for more than a year.

On Aug. 8, a dispute with staff over perceived inconsistencies in court rental times and prices escalated and Wilkins reportedly cursed.

He then refused to leave the premises when asked and a staff member called the sheriff’s office.

Wilkins received a letter afterward from the parks department that issued the two-year suspension due to violation of the county’s zero tolerance policy for using foul language and a verbal confrontation with staff.

Though the parks and recreation board upheld the suspension after the appeal hearing, the county’s decision to fully reinstate Wilkins occurred about a week later.

“I appreciated that something that was a misunderstanding was settled,” Wilkins said.

He returned to the south Forsyth center on Wednesday to schedule time for gym rentals to meet with clients.

Wilkins, 50, said he got started in the county gym in summer 2012, a few months after it opened.

Wilkins had been considering opening his own facility for lessons, but found exactly what he’d been looking for in the center.

Once he learned that the center rented court space, Wilkins settled on Old Atlanta — near his Johns Creek home — to work with local youth.

His client base grew quickly, as did the center’s popularity.

Though he was once one, if not the only, coach offering lessons at the center, others began to seek rentals for the same purpose.

Reservations became more complicated, and eventually led to the dispute with staff. However, Wilkins said he’s now confident that a consistent rental policy is in place.

He’s looking forward to continuing to coach private lessons, as well as holding camps and helping out with county programs when possible.

Though some challenges may exist in working out of a public facility, Wilkins said he likes that the location makes him available and visible to share his basketball talent and knowledge with young people.

“It’s good for the county, it’s good for me, and it’s great for the kids,” he said. “It allows me to get out there to return and educate … I’m coming from the pro level back into the community.”

Wilkins said he’s leaving the past in the past, and feels that staff at the center has done the same.

“I have no hard feelings,” he said. “I think our relationship is going to be even better.”

 

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