Hatcher defends actions in skirmish
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Logan boys basketball coach Mark Hatcher said he was only trying to follow a new high school rule regarding fights on the court during an incident that erupted in a Saturday night game at Chapmanville.
Hatcher, a two-time state championship coach at Logan, was arrested after Saturday's game, in which the Wildcats beat Scott 52-47 during the four-game Nationwide Classic at the Chapmanville Regional High School gym.
Hatcher is facing misdemeanor battery charges for allegedly shoving a Chapmanville police officer after a fight broke out between players in the fourth quarter and Hatcher rushed onto the floor.
"I was doing what the new National Federation rule told me to do,'' Hatcher said Sunday night. "Based on the new rule, you're allowed to go out and try to diffuse the situation. We've never been able to do that before. There were multiple adults on the floor - not coaches or referees.''
A new rule instituted this season by the National Federation of High Schools, Rule 10-4-5 (the Fighting Rule), reads:
The head coach may enter the court to diffuse a situation where a fight may break out or has broken out to prevent it from escalating.
"[When the fight broke out], there were other people on the floor - adults,'' Hatcher said. "I didn't know who they were. They were grabbing my kids. The Scott coaches were out there grabbing their kids. I kept my kids [on the bench] on the sideline, then let the assistant coaches do it.
"There was a guy in a black outfit - a sheriff's guy dressed in black - on top of one of my kids. I rolled him over. That's the only guy I touched that I can remember.''
Hatcher said that officer wasn't the one to press charges, but rather a Chapmanville city policeman, who Hatcher said grabbed him by his left wrist in the middle of the melee.
"Right in the middle of 10 kids, refs, all these other people in there,'' Hatcher said, "he grabs me and jerks me away. I didn't know who it was. He could have been a fireman, police officer from Charleston, anybody. I was caught totally off guard they were on the floor.
"I don't believe I pushed him. I jerked my arm away from him. I probably said something to him. I didn't do anything violent toward anybody.
"In 20 years of coaching, I've seen a lot of fights happen, but I've never seen cops on the floor unless there were fans on the floor and not just players. My No. 1 responsibility is my kids, and that's the only thing I was doing, following the new rule.''
Hatcher, who was allowed to finish the game on the bench, was taken into custody afterward and charged with misdemeanor assault and battery on a police offer. He was free on bond.
At least one local television station led its 6 p.m. Sunday newscast with Hatcher's arrest, though with one glaring inaccuracy, saying Hatcher was "behind bars" after the incident.
Hatcher acknowledged he was arrested and appeared before a magistrate, but not jailed. A hearing will be scheduled in his case.
As of early Sunday evening, Hatcher said he had yet to talk to administrators at Logan High School or to the SSAC about a possible suspension. He was still hoping to view video of the incident to corroborate his claims.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.