Hairston returns, takes interim job

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2010; D09

Rod Hairston, dismissed as McNamara girls' basketball coach five weeks before the start of practice, has been hired as emergency interim coach at Northwestern High, Hairston said Wednesday afternoon.

Hairston, who before going to McNamara for one season led Eleanor Roosevelt to five consecutive Maryland 4A titles, takes over at Northwestern for Eric Sampson, who last month was suspended for the season for alleged recruiting violations.

Northwestern finished 17-7 last season, 13-4 in Prince George's 4A. One of the Wildcats' top returning players is 6-foot forward Simone Sampson, daughter of the suspended coach, who is deciding whether she will stay in the program, Hairston said.

The school initially had named assistant Warren Stephens as interim coach, but Stephens resigned because he felt uncomfortable about the situation he inherited, Northwestern Athletic Director Terri Dendy said.

Hairston has been hired for just this season. Another candidate also interviewed for the interim position, Dendy said.

Northwestern could return several experienced players, including Sampson and guards Ebonie Diggs, Jazmyn Robinson and Ciara McCray. The Wildcats, who lost to Wise last season in the Maryland 4A South final, play their first regular season game Friday at Oxon Hill.

"I was kind of familiar with the players, so there would be less getting to know the girls even though I'm still getting to know them," Hairston said of taking the job weeks into the preseason. "My philosophy or strategy is I'm going to try to adapt what I do to what they already do.

"My expectation is for them to have fun and learn this season, but when I spoke to them [Tuesday], everybody wants to win a championship, and they felt like they can win a championship. That's what the goal is: Try to win a championship."

Given the circumstances of her father being suspended, there has been talk of Simone Sampson transferring out of the program. Her departure would hinder those championship hopes.

She did not practice with the team Monday or Tuesday, Hairston said.

Hairston said he has spoken to the Sampsons and hopes that Simone Sampson stays but is not sure what decision the family might make. Dendy said Wednesday afternoon that Sampson is still enrolled at Northwestern.

"Any challenge is an opportunity," Hairston said. "[Taking this job] was an opportunity to overcome an adverse situation, and I think the girls are up for it. I think they've shown themselves to be resilient."

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