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City Reporter



Grizzlies Coach Resigns

Former coach / TV analyst Hubie Brown will replace Sidney Lowe.

By Chris Herrington

Jerry West, the Memphis Grizzlies president of basketball operations, announced Tuesday that head coach Sidney Lowe had resigned, effective immediately. West also announced the hiring of veteran coach and television analyst Hubie Brown, 69, as the team's sixth and latest head coach.

Faced with a flurry of national stories questioning Lowe's job status, West had given Lowe a vote of confidence after the team's overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, November 4th. But Lowe's situation had worsened considerably over the next week. After a 108-101 home loss to the previously 1-6 Golden State Warriors on Monday night pushed the Grizzlies to a second straight 0-8 start, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Lowe's exit. The announced attendance for that game was 10,112, the lowest for a regular-season home game since the Grizzlies' move to Memphis, and boos rained down from the rafters in the fourth quarter, after the Warriors built a 25-point lead.

Though expectations were higher this year after an influx of new talent, the team was never able to win under Lowe this season. The Grizzlies were the worst defensive team in the league through eight games, giving up 102 points per game and falling behind by double-digits in all eight.

Lowe finished with a record of 46-126 in just over two seasons at the helm of the Grizzlies, leading the team to back-to-back franchise records of 23 wins in each of the last two seasons. Lowe gave no indication of his impending fate in his postgame press conference Monday night, mentioning that he'd be focusing on team defense during the three-day break before the Grizzlies' next game on Friday, November 15th, against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Brown, best known in recent years as an NBA analyst for Turner Network Television, served two stints as an NBA head coach, with the Atlanta Hawks (1976-1981) and the New York Knicks (1982-1987), winning the NBA Coach of the Year award in 1977. Brown will be introduced as the team's coach Wednesday at a press conference at The Pyramid.

Trash vs. Treasure

Judge will decide if Prince Mongo's home is art or eyesore.

By Bianca Phillips

Using your front lawn as an art gallery could lead to time spent in Environmental Court if your neighbors aren't happy. At least that's the case with Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges.

Hodges has been in and out of court lately regarding his collection of mannequin heads, toilet seats, plastic lawn chairs, and other assorted objects that once adorned his front yard at the corner of Colonial and Park. On September 30th, Environmental Court judge Larry Potter ordered Hodges to clean up, and he moved the collection to the backyard. Code-enforcement officers claimed he'd only rearranged the mess, and on October 28th, Hodges was found in contempt of court. An appeal of the contempt order is pending.

According to The Commercial Appeal, Hodges called his collection "art" but neighbors complained that it was a public nuisance. City code-enforcement manager Johnie McKay said anything that disturbs neighbors, whether it's art or not, can be considered a violation of the housing code.

"Anytime there's an interference where one individual causes another individual not to enjoy their home, you are in violation," said McKay.

Several weeks ago, Hodges hosted a "Zambodian Art Festival" and splattered paint over the exterior of his house. The paint could not be challenged in court due to the lack of a graffiti ordinance in the city.

According to tax-assessor records, the property actually belongs to Michael Hodges, Mongo's brother. McKay said that Michael was sent a notice regarding the violation, but since he resides out-of-state, the city is virtually powerless to do anything about it.

In June, the Flyer reported that Hodges was in compliance with the Building Department of Code Enforcement, but code inspectors for the Environmental Court have tried to prove that the property was a public nuisance

Hodges' lawyer, Johnny Rasberry, claims the only reason neighbors complain is because of the location. He said he thinks a similar situation in a less prestigious neighborhood wouldn't warrant any complaints.

By the Numbers

Cohen names lottery task force.

By Mary Cashiola

There were no numbered plastic balls, no cable-access blonde, and no multimillion-dollar payout, but the proposed lottery's first picks were announced earlier this week.

On Tuesday, state Senator Steve Cohen named the members of the 16-person General Assembly Education Lottery Task Force responsible for structuring the college scholarships that would benefit from the new state lottery.

With members of the task force coming from East, West, and Middle Tennessee, Cohen says he was looking for the best, brightest, and most objective and knowledgeable people in Tennessee education to be on the committee.

Members include University of Memphis president Shirley Raines, Tennessee Board of Regents member and longtime Memphis City Schools board commissioner Maxine Smith, and Rich Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Eight legislative members will be announced later.

"They'll be giving direction to the legislature, so we can get the best value for our buck," said Cohen.

Education committee members will be charged with deciding how scholarships should be awarded to students, whether by merit, need, or a combination of both. Committee members will also be looking at which qualifying criteria should be used and how to structure the program for adult education.

Members of two other committees, a charitable arm and a government entity, which will study different aspects of the lottery, have yet to be announced. The government committee will examine what safeguards are needed and how the lottery should be structured.

Cohen, who hopes to have the lottery in place by December 2003, said he'd like each of the three committees to report to the state legislature by February.

"Eighteen years is a long time to wait," he said. "We need to get going. Each additional month we wait costs us $25 million."

Cohen estimated that a state lottery would net Tennessee $300 million a year.

What Would Jesus Do?

New policies may restrict use of deputies for church-traffic duty.

By Mary Cashiola

Every Sunday morning and Wednesday night, worshipers flock to Bellevue Baptist Church on Appling Road. But they're not the only ones. Under an agreement with the county, up to six off-duty deputies come too -- to direct traffic.

In this buckle of the Bible Belt, it's no surprise that a religious gathering may have a need for some men in holsters to keep the peace. Whether the practice will continue in the upcoming months, however, remains to be seen. Under new Shelby County sheriff Mark Luttrell, the sheriff's department is undergoing a full-scale internal audit that could have ramifications on any number of policies.

"We're currently reviewing the policy to determine whether deputies can do private security work in their uniform and with their equipment," said sheriff's department spokesman Steve Shular. "We thought the policy needed to be reviewed. ... We're looking at every department and asking, 'Why are we doing this this way?'"

In Bellevue's case, Shular says the county first provided traffic control as a courtesy when the 5,000-member congregation moved from Midtown to its current location at 2000 Appling Road.

"It created a tremendous traffic problem. The road was almost inaccessible on Sundays and Wednesdays," said Shular. "The sheriff's department was initially brought out to deal with the traffic, but we quickly realized that this was going to be an ongoing issue."

Instead of the county footing the bill every week, the church began to use off-duty deputies looking for after-hours employment. Both Shular and Inspector Bobby Todd with the city police department's traffic division said that any private organization that needs traffic control must pay for it, either through their respective departments or by using private security firms. But in the county, Shular said he doesn't know yet what changes the new sheriff will make to the after-hours employment policy, if any.

"We want to be sensitive to the deputies' needs," said Shular. "We know that after-hours employment is important to them."

At Bellevue and Oak Grove Missionary Baptist, another church that uses the sheriff department's deputies, it might not matter what the sheriff decides. After the surprise annexation last May, both churches are now technically in the city. And as such, the county might tell them they have to contract services with the city.

Todd said churches who want to contract with the city have to request officers through the department's off-duty employment office, or an officer can get permission from police director Walter Crews.

"If it winds up that we take over," said Todd, "they're going to have to pay us. We don't do that free of charge. We simply don't have the manpower to do that. If we had officers out at every church on Sunday, who would be protecting you at home?"

Churches who contract with the city must pay officers $40 an hour for a minimum of four hours; that cost includes the use of the officers' equipment and squad car.

"If a church calls us and they're having trouble getting churchgoers off their property and onto the city streets, we come out and let them know how many officers they might need," said Todd. "Bellevue might have to request something real soon. They've got a lot of people out there."

Shular expected the county to make a decision about the situation within the next couple of months, depending on what the audit finds. "It could mean a change, but we don't know yet. It's too early to tell," said Shular. "Right now we're letting the current agreement go on."

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