Two seasons of unrest between Blanche Ely five-time state champion basketball coach Melvin Randall and the Ely administration reached a boiling point on Friday morning with Randall being released of his coaching duties.
Randall, who led Ely to its fourth state title overall last March, confirmed in a phone interview that he was informed of his dismissal in a 10:30 a.m. meeting with Ely assistant principal Malcolm Spence (Ely administrator over sports) and assistant principal Antonio Womack.
“The meeting was short, harsh and without an explanation as to why,” Randall said. “All they told me is that they are moving in a different direction [with the] boys’ basketball coach. Mr. Spence said to leave the gym key on the desk and “you have some orange uniforms and some shooting shirts, and I need them by Monday.”
Spence, whose phone went to voicemail Friday, could not be reached for comment.
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Even if Randall doesn’t coach again, he has first ballot Hall of Fame credentials. Randall (458-136) led Deerfield Beach to state titles in 1997 and 1999 before bringing his no-nonsense, high-pressure defense coaching style to Ely in 2002 and subsequently leading Ely to its best run in boys’ basketball.
Randall went 226-79 at Ely and brought the Tigers its second state title with former Florida Gators guard Kenny Boynton Jr. the driving force in 2006-07.
Ely returned to the pinnacle winning the 2011-12 state title and earned its fourth state title overall with the victory over Orlando Evans in the Class 7A state title game last March.
Underlying tension became public after Randall criticized Ely principal Karlton Johnson in a FHSAA Class 7A state championship game post-game news conference following the Tigers’ 58-50 victory over Evans.
During that news conference Randall took issue with having to apply twice for the boys’ basketball position last Fall and the abrupt dismissal of former assistant coaches Reginald McNair and Morris Grooms.
Ironically, when asked if he would return as Ely coach at the time, Randall said yes but joked he “might have to apply three times.”
Despite the distractions, Randall guided a team that lost four starters to a wire-to-wire No. 1 ranking in Florida, school-best 27-2 record, No. 9 spot in the ESPN 25 Power rankings and its second invitation to the National High School Tournament.
“I really don’t know what’s going on,” Randall said. “I am confused right now. I need to know what warranted this. All I know it’s personal. I know coaching is a supplemental position but I need to know under what cause I was let go.”