|Friday, January 31
Updated: July 22, 5:40 PM ET
James' coach implies media at fault
AKRON, Ohio -- LeBron James supporters honked car horns and gathered outside his high school Friday after a ruling ended his amateur basketball career.
Passing motorists shouted, "Leave LeBron alone!'' and "It's your fault!'' to reporters gathered outside St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Some students outside shouted at reporters and cameramen to go away and also blamed them for his problems.
James was with his team in the gym after the Ohio High School Athletic Association declared him ineligible Friday because he accepted two sports jerseys from a store.
Anthony Destefano, a junior who plays football for the school, said James should be able to accept gifts.
"Our school definitely tried to fight it,'' Destefano said.
Destefano blamed the store owner who gave James two trendy "throwback'' jerseys worth $845, causing the ruling.
"They are trying to exploit him,'' he said.
The Roman Catholic school is just outside downtown along one of Akron's busiest streets. Across the street, a man with a mask made out of a cardboard box held a sign up reading "Free LeBron.''
School athletic director Grant Innocenzi wouldn't blame media attention for the end to James' high school career.
"We controlled it as much as we could,'' Innocenzi said. "There's probably no high school in the history of the United States that has been in this situation.
"We handled it as well as can be expected for a small Catholic school.''
The team must focus on the last five regular-season games, he said.
"Of course I am disappointed. We all love LeBron. We love watching him play,'' he said.
Bud Housley, 71, walked over to the school from his home to see why all the television crews were parked outside.
"All he had to do is wait two months,'' Housley said. "He exposed himself to this type of danger and it's a shame. He's a wonderful kid -- just very naive.''
St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce said James talked with his teammates inside.
"He loves the team. He has private words for them and they will remain private,'' he said.
Joyce would not assign blame directly but implied outside pressures led to the disqualification.
"What you guys have created in him, putting him on this pedestal, allowed someone to entice him,'' he said.