Wright's resumé is that of a consummate hustler. Starting in 1986, he spent 21 years working off and on for various Florida state agencies involving children. He was a protective investigator, a family services counselor, and a juvenile probation officer. He was also the co-owner of an unlicensed nudie club that in 1999 saw him arrested for hiring ladies to dance naked in his Three Fingers Lounge, a slouch-and-sip package store in Liberty City. And he was a soldier, enlisting in the National Guard in July 2001 and serving as a reserve for eight years.

Wright, who wrestled and played football at Miami High, was betrayed by his 5'8" stature. He majored in criminal justice at Grambling State University, where — a bit of foreshadowing here — he failed Marriage and Family 402 and Deviant Behavior 412, according to transcripts he submitted with an application for a state job.

Wright has always been most confident on the sidelines of a playing field, where he commands respect like a drill sergeant. He coached the Bucktown Buccaneers, a semipro football team in Miami; became the assistant boys' basketball coach at Carol City High; and then scored the gig that would vault him to local notoriety. In 1993, Wright became the assistant coach, under Marcos "Shakey" Rodriguez, of the Miami High boys' basketball team, which won eight titles in 16 years but was dogged by rumors of recruiting.

In 1995, Shakey scored the men's basketball head coaching job at Florida International University and left Wright to assist a new coach, Frank Martin. Three years later, the Miami High Stingarees — packed with very tall transfer students and led by current NBA stars Udonis Haslem and Steve Blake — won yet another state championship. Then the ax fell.

New Times published an investigation exposing rampant recruiting violations on the title-winning squad. Haslem and Blake, among others, used fabricated home addresses or lived with coaches in violation of state regulations. Two inside sources claimed Wright had held a very specialized role: recruiter. "That was all he was supposed to do," said one. The other source added that he would make poaching trips to meet promising players within other schools' boundaries.

The FHSAA commissioner called it the most "blatant violation of... rules against recruiting that [he had] ever encountered." His association stripped Miami High of the championship. In the aftermath, Frank Martin was canned. Wright also left Miami High, returning to his old buddy Shakey's side as assistant coach at FIU.

Two years later, another New Times investigation rocked that team as well: Future NBA star Carlos Arroyo had punched a team manager in the face. There were dubious grade changes for student athletes. And Shakey had filled his coaching and playing ranks with old faces from the toxic 1998 Miami High squad. Shakey Rodriguez resigned. Wright was released.

It seems everybody but Wright moved on from the disgrace. Frank Martin rakes in $1.2 million a year coaching the Kansas State Wildcats. Shakey Rodriguez earns $70,000-plus at Krop High, where he's head coach of yet another dubious boys' basketball juggernaut.

But by 2005, when he first saw that basketball court in the Miami Rescue Mission, Wright was still out of coaching. Besides his National Guard money, he was making $28,000 a year keeping tabs on juvenile delinquents' whereabouts. He had been divorced four times. In Richard Burton-esque fashion, three of those failed marriages were with the same woman, named Jacqueline. Wright fathered several children and lived in a small unit in a dingy Hialeah apartment building.

So he must have sensed a coup when he got involved in a new academy being planted in the Miami Rescue Mission by administrators who shared Wright's unique educational vision.


In those early days, the school was called Choice Learning Academy North. Classes were held in a cluster of small rooms on the same floor as the basketball court inside the pastel-colored building. From the beginning, it attracted students from Miami's most hardscrabble neighborhoods, many of them from broken homes. They were kids like 17-year-old Danielle Wooden, who lived with five other children and an aunt not far from the school, until one night she was found dead on a nearby loading dock. Or 16-year-old Byron Curry, who in January 2007 was charged with murder after he and friends pushed a man under the wheels of a county bus during a botched robbery.

The school was an outpost of Choice Preparatory School, a tiny, nomadic academy constantly changing locations in South Miami-Dade and founded by Antron Wright (no relation), a pariah on the local youth sports scene. The former pro football player had been banned from at least one high school campus, the New York Times reported in 2005, for poaching its players for "storefront academies" — fly-by-night "diploma mills" designed to gain playing eligibility for academically struggling athletes.

(Antron, who today runs Choice Prep out of a park recreational building in Goulds, says he's interested only in "educating poor children," distances himself from CLA, and says of Bernard Wright: "I don't like the motherfucker.")

The new school's founder was Christopher Sweeting, an AT&T technician and vice president of local Christian rap label Lockedown Entertainment. Sweeting sometimes liked to roar up to the homeless shelter in his souped-up Chevy Impala, which he outfitted with giant rims. By all accounts, Sweeting soon bequeathed daily operations to his wife Rushae, listed on the school's spare website as its administrative director.

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10 comments
zhenglishu
zhenglishu

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JJFLOJ
JJFLOJ

HOW DOES MIAMI AND THE FSHSL PUT UP WITH THIS?IT IS A DISGRACE TO FLORIDA AND BASKETBALL!!!!

Ttsturrup
Ttsturrup

fhsaa and everyknows bernard wright got the players for shakey and frank martin since the 90''s.

Beware6876
Beware6876

The Times should do more investigation of President Of Global Academy " Jeffrey L. Wells", thats the crack head in the story

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Ttsturrup
Ttsturrup

bernard wright used to be asst. at carol city high with coach bell.coach bell was my teacher at carol city middle.

Goober
Goober

I must say this is one of the greatest stories I have ever read. What pure insanity

MNT Fan
MNT Fan

This is the Miami New Times I know and love.

Awesome hit piece!

 
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