Winning Is Everything

In Miami there's one sure way to build a championship high school sports team: Throw out the rule book and cheat like hell

There is little question that Gachelin's training program is good for the kids lucky enough to part of it. "He's the best thing that ever happened to me," James Dumervil says of Gachelin. The star player and his brother have been involved with Gachelin since they were toddlers. "I owe him everything. Without him I would be nothing."

"He's like a, how do you say it, like a mentor," adds Rosalie Thanis of the relationship between Gachelin and her son Napoleon. "He has been very positive in my son's life. He's raised his self-esteem quite a bit. And his grades have improved a lot, from a 1.3 to a 2.3."

Thanis says she and Gachelin attend Tabernacle Church on 76th Street and NE Second Avenue, and that Gachelin has known Napoleon for most of the boy's life. "Frank is a charmer," she says. "He told me he wanted Napoleon to be with other boys. [Napoleon] lives over there during the week, and he lives with me on the weekends." Thanis owns a house outside the attendance boundaries of both Jackson and Northwestern, and she remains her son's legal guardian.

At the Soul Bowl, Frank Gachelin, left, and other Jackson coaches attended to James Dumervil, who injured his knee early in the game
At the Soul Bowl, Frank Gachelin, left, and other Jackson coaches attended to James Dumervil, who injured his knee early in the game

According to school-district records, Napoleon lives full-time at the Gachelin compound near Northwestern High School. Gachelin bought the property a year ago. "I moved from Opa-locka because [the principal and athletic director at Hialeah-Miami Lakes] were giving me heat about still living in the Hialeah-Miami Lakes district," he says. Parents in his Northwestern neighborhood call him a traitor for feeding his players to Jackson. Little kids walk by the compound with their pinkies and index fingers extended in the sign of the Northwestern Bulls.

"If the school system says, 'You know, Mr. Gachelin, you have to send your kids to Northwestern,' I will move," he asserts emphatically. "I will find another place by Jackson. I will take my whole operation somewhere else, into the inner city. Because I have to. I refuse to go to Northwestern."

Both Jackson and Northwestern lost in the first round of this year's state championship playoffs, falling last week in major upsets to Columbus and Miami Southridge High respectively. Almost as soon as the Generals lost, Gachelin began preparing for next season. At a public auction he purchased yet more weightlifting equipment, including four additional expensive StairMaster machines. And with James Dumervil and the other seniors about to graduate to the college game, he's keeping his eyes peeled for a few new lucky recruits. "Once we get a player into college, we replace them in the operation," Gachelin says. "As their bed is empty, believe me, it's filled as soon as he is gone. Last year we had a different crop of players. Next year we'll have a whole other different crop. They are all going to be big stars."

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