Bill Duncan

Then-Heritage High School boys basketball coach Bill Duncan gives instructions to his team during the district championship game on Feb. 23, 2016.

The Tennessee State Board of Education has stripped the teaching license of a boys basketball coach who resigned in January 2017 amid an investigation into claims he shoved one Heritage High School player and called another names.

Blount County Schools suspended Bill Duncan with pay Dec. 21, 2016, “pending investigation” and changed the suspension to without pay Jan. 3, 2017.

Duncan resigned the following day, but at the time, BCS and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office said there was an open investigation and provided no details.

Duncan denied all allegations against him and said there was not enough evidence to bring charges, a BCSO spokeswoman said this month.

The Order of Revocation for Duncan’s teacher license, approved by the state board July 27, states Duncan shoved a player and called another a “Cambodian refugee” during a basketball practice in November 2016. It also refers to additional allegations of “inappropriate physical contact and inappropriate communication” BCS reported to the board in January 2017.

Duncan did not request a hearing before the state board. However, when a Daily Times reporter reached him by phone Thursday, he said, “I’m going to get my license back.”

BCS sent the state board notes from its investigation, which include interviews with two assistant coaches and 19 students. A letter signed by BCS Director Rob Britt on Nov. 13, 2017, stated Duncan’s resignation “prevented the school district from fully substantiating the allegations.”

Although the records sent to the state board show a handwritten letter signed by Duncan and dated Jan. 4, 2017, that says, “I am resigning my position at Heritage High School,” BCS released a form letter that day that is a request for retirement signed by him and dated the same day. Tennessee State Board of Education documents list his full name as Billy Ray Duncan.

Admitted comment

According to the notes, Duncan admitted putting his hands on a player but said it wasn’t brutal and said he called the player to apologize that evening.

“There was nothing to that,” Duncan said in the phone interview late Thursday, adding he has had lunch with the player since then.

The investigation notes state Duncan also admitted calling a player a “Cambodian refugee” and a “Jew” as a joke because the player was skinny. “According to Coach Duncan, this event happened before a parent, admin, AD and coach conference that involved calling a player a ‘faggot,’” the investigation revealed.

Responded Duncan by phone Thursday: “I never called anybody a Jew.” He also denied using the word “faggot.” However, he admitted calling a thin student a “Cambodian refugee.”

While assistant coach Cody Russell said he never saw Duncan put his hands on a player or heard him use inappropriate language, then-assistant coach Neal Leatherwood said he did see Duncan push a player with two hands on the chest during a scramble drill in November 2016.

The notes state Leatherwood heard Duncan call a player “Cambodian refugee” and “Jew,” but the notes on the interview with Leatherwood state, “Coach Duncan has gotten after kids, but not used inappropriate language.”

Girls’ allegations

Duncan denied allegations from female students that during the 2015-16 school year he touched them and made inappropriate comments.

“That’s all fabrication,” he said during the phone interview.

One girl accused him of pinching and grabbing her buttocks and grabbing her leg. When they were alone, she said, he would ask, “When are you going to be 18 so that I can give you a kiss?”

Another girl said he kissed her hands, tried to kiss her cheek and massaged her shoulders. She also said he patted her leg and moved his hand close to her inner thigh.

A third girl said she witnessed Duncan invite a student out.

No head-butt

Duncan denied allegations that he head-butted a student during a fourth-quarter timeout against Stone Mountain on Dec. 20, 2016. The coach, however, said he did get nose to nose with a student, and several players agreed with the nose-to-nose characterization of what happened.

In response to an allegation that he hit a player with a clipboard during the 2015-16 season, the coach had a hard time remembering, according to the notes BCS submitted to the state board. “Coach Duncan mentioned something about giving player a tap to get his head in the game and start playing,” the notes state.

At least three students referred to Duncan hitting a player with a clipboard, with one saying, “I deserved it because I was mouthing out,” according to the notes. That player also called Duncan “a good coach.”

The notes from one student interview state, “Coach Duncan is a good coach, but has not connected his coaching style to this day and age.”

When asked why he didn’t request a hearing before the State Board of Education voted to revoke his license, Duncan said, “I just didn’t.”

As for how he will get his license back, Duncan said he is looking at taking some classes.

Teachers may apply for restoration of a license. Board policy 5.500, which covers License Restoration Applications, notes that restoration is “discretionary and considered on a case-by-case basis.” The applicant must show that the cause for revocation no longer exists and “must provide evidence of rehabilitation and fitness to perform the duties authorized by the license sought.

Duncan said he began coaching in the 1970s. Before being hired at HHS in 2012, he coached in Seymour, Greeneville, Scott County and Portland, all in Tennessee. He also was head coach of the Kuwait national team in 1999.

Duncan is the second HHS coach to lose his teaching license this year. In January, the board revoked the license of Kent Leatherwood, who resigned his position as a teacher and assistant baseball coach in September 2017 after an investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct with female students.

Kent Leatherwood is not the same person as Neal Leatherwood, whose name is listed above.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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