Curie parents demand answers about removal of basketball coach Mike Oliver


A group of parents at Curie High School is demanding a quick and fair investigation of the school’s boys basketball coach, who they say did nothing wrong and should be reinstated from his suspension immediately.

Mike Oliver, longtime coach of the top-ranked boys team and a Curie alum, was removed from his position late last month after an allegation surfaced that he had a physical altercation with a student.

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The incident is alleged to have happened during Oliver’s job as a security guard at Curie, not as a coach, and it involved a student who isn’t on the basketball team.

Basketball parents who are defending Oliver told reporters at a press conference outside the school Friday evening that they don’t think Oliver would lay his hands on a student, and they want his name cleared quickly.

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Curie coach Michael Oliver.

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Curie coach Michael Oliver
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

“Our players look up to Coach Mike as a father figure,” said parent Tainika Somerville, flanked by almost a dozen Oliver supporters. “We had to find out [about Oliver’s removal] through social media, which was very disrespectful not only to the parents but also mainly to the students.

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“The only thing we’re asking for now is a speedy process, a process that’s going to be done fairly and we need our coach back ASAP,” Somerville said. “The main reason why myself and a lot of parents brought our kids here was for Mike Oliver.”

Chicago Public Schools spokesman Michael Passman said “CPS is committed to completing thorough investigations as quickly as possible.”

Passman added that CPS policy and collective bargaining agreements stipulate employees can remain in unpaid status up to 45 days during an investigation. If cleared sooner, Oliver could return to work before those 45 days are up.

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If Curie were to advance to the 4A state playoff tournament, March 20-21, it would start 42 days from Friday.

Oliver told the Sun-Times Wednesday that “it’s all false accusations. I haven’t done anything wrong. I was doing my job at Curie. That’s all I can say. I’m under investigation.” He added that in his 27 years as a CPS security guard, he’d never before had an allegation made against him.

He previously was suspended by the IHSA in 2016 and by CPS in 2014 after an eligibility scandal involving the basketball team.

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The top-ranked Condors are 21-1 this season and have not lost to a school in Illinois. Oliver led the Condors to the Class 4A state title in 2015-16 and has compiled a 542-133 record in 27 seasons.

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curie coach mike oliver

Curie’s head coach Mike Oliver gives Elijah Joiner (2) a big hug after winning the 4A state championship game over Benet in 2016.
Worsom Robinson/ For Sun-Times

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Without Oliver, the Condors defeated Marshall 86-55 in the second round of the Public League playoffs Thursday. Oliver also didn’t coach Curie’s previous three games, wins against Marshall, Hazelwood Central, Mo., St. Louis Vashon and Harlan.

Assistant coach Larry Wallace has taken over the program.

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