Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Costin

'Crybaby award' winner's life takes even sadder turn

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You might not remember the name Terrence Philo Jr., but you might remember his story.

At his Pleasantville (N.J.) Middle School basketball team’s end-of-season banquet, Terrence’s coach invited him to come to the end-of-season banquet for a special moment. Then, in front of 25 teammates and parents, the coach gave Terrence an award: the “Crybaby Award,” complete with a trophy depicting a baby, and a nameplate misspelled “Terrance.”

The coach claimed it was supposed to be some sort of honor for Terrence’s play and vocal participation, but Terrence wasn’t in on the joke. The 13-year-old was so embarrassed, he refused to come back to school that Monday, and his father said Terrence didn’t even want to go outside. The bad-joke award got national attention, and the coach who issued it, 24-year-old James Guillen, was fired, though he kept his job as a special education teacher.

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That was 2004.

Six years later, Terrence Philo Jr. is back in the news again. It would be nice to say that the traumatizing incident strengthened the honor student’s resolve to treat others well and put himself in a position to help others.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that.

From the Press of Atlantic City:

A Pleasantville teen who made national headlines six years ago for being awarded a “crybaby award” by his middle school basketball coach is accused of leading police on a chase – and now faces assault, gun and drug charges.

Police say an officer was injured while trying to arrest Terrence Philo Jr., 19.

Police told the newspaper that a Pleasantville officer saw someone, later identified as Philo, attempt to rob someone with a gun. The officer chased Philo as he sped away in a car, and the officer crashed his car into the back of Philo’s vehicle after Philo hit a parked car. He ran away, but another officer and a police dog tracked Philo down in a closet at a nearby home, where he was arrested. Police said they found a loaded .357 Magnum and crack cocaine in his car.

Without knowing what’s been going on with Philo over the last six years, it would be a real stretch to say that the “Crybaby Award” turned him from honor student into alleged criminal. Just like how you can’t say for sure that Michael Costin Jr. grew up to abuse drugs, alcohol, and his 23-years-his-senior girlfriend because his father was killed by another hockey dad in a notorious 2000 case.

However, it’s safe to say that, in each case: it didn’t help.

The words from a family therapist, spoken to USA Today in 2004, about the “Crybaby Award” incident sound haunting now:

“It’s an awful thing to have done to a teenager, just totally uncalled for,” said Michael Popkin, a family therapist and author based in Atlanta. “One of the harshest things you can do to a kid is to publicly humiliate them. It’s bad enough putting him down one on one, away from the team. To set him up like that and then cut his knees out in public is a huge blow.” …

Whether the boy suffers permanent harm from the humiliation depends on how strong he is emotionally and how much his friends, family and teammates support him, Popkin said.

By the way, Guillen is still teaching special education in Pleasantville. The Press did not appear to contact him (and I haven’t either). But one wonders what he thought when he heard of “Terrance” Philo Jr.’s arrest.

The sad decline of Michael Costin Jr.

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You might remember in 2000 how Michael Costin Sr. died after being beaten by fellow hockey dad Thomas Junta, upset that someone elbowed his son in a practice Coston supervised at a rink in Reading, Mass. It remains one of the most notorious cases of sports parents run amok. Junta is still in jail on his involuntary manslaughter conviction, his parole denied for a second time, in 2008.

Also in jail: one of attack’s witnesses, Michael Costin Jr.

From the Gloucester Times:

…after the case was over and the attention faded away, Michael Costin Jr.’s life spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse and violence, court records show.

[Monday], Costin, now 20, was sent to Middleton Jail for 18 months, after pleading guilty to beating up his 43-year-old girlfriend and stealing her car two days before Christmas.

Prosecutor Michelle DeCourcey said Salem police were called to a Leach Street apartment on the afternoon of Dec. 23 by Costin’s girlfriend, who said he had grabbed her by the throat, punched her in the face and told her, “You’re going to die tonight.”


The above photo is Michael Costin Jr. testifying during Junta’s 2002 trial. The Gloucester Times went into more detail about how he frequently has ended up in court again, but as a defendent.

Costin has already served time for assaulting the same woman and has racked up a multipage record in the past three years.

Judge Richard Mori [who has heard other cases involving Costin] said Costin has received a lot of support, including requests for leniency from police officers familiar with his family history.

Costin’s lawyer, James Craig, urged the judge to give his client another shot at probation, suggesting a brief jail term and then strict supervision by a probation officer. He even noted that the victim in the case has offered to take Costin back in when he is released, though he added that Costin no longer wants to be involved with the woman.

But the judge said Costin has failed to take part in programs offered by the probation department in some of his prior cases to help him deal with some of his issues, including a serious substance abuse problem and mental health problems that may stem from the death of his father.

“I’m really sorry about the thing with your father, but you’ve got to grow up,” Mori told him. “It’s got to stop. You just can’t do this anymore.”

At Junta’s trial, Costin Jr. told the court: “I saw Thomas Junta beating my dad into the ground. For the rest of that day and for the next day, my heart was in my throat. Please teach Thomas Junta a lesson: Let the world know that a person can’t do what Thomas Junta did to my dad, to my family and to me … we all want Thomas Junta to go to prison for as long as your honor can put him there.”

So is Michael Costin Jr. in this downward spiral because of his witnessing the beating death of his father?

I’ll leave that to the mental health professionals. But I will make one guess: it didn’t help. Neither did not having his father as he entered his teenage years. (I don’t know whether Michael was the son who reportedly climbed into the casket with his father during his wake.)

I’ll make another guess — the roots of the younger Costin’s criminal behavior are deep. His father, an unemployed handyman, had numerous convictions, including weapons possession and assaulting a police officer. The younger Costin’s grandfather fatally stabbed his uncle when he was 17 and was convicted of manslaughter. Costin, an unemployed handyman, had a record of convictions on charges including weapons possession and assaulting a police officer.

The grandfather also told NBC’s “Today” in 2000 that his son, Michael’s dad, had a drinking problem that ran in the family.

Michael Costin Jr., for whatever reason, is fulfilling a family tradition — no happy endings.