Strange Turn in a Sad Story

After MJ's high school coach lands in jail, one wonders: Where will this tale end?
January 23, 2012

Clifton (Pop) Herring was arrested last Thursday evening, late on the same day that many SI subscribers received an issue in which he was profiled as the high school coach falsely accused of cutting Michael Jordan in 1978. Police in Wilmington, N.C., had come to Herring's home looking for a missing 24-year-old woman, whose body they eventually found buried in a shallow grave in the side yard. They arrested Andrew B. Adams, a 55-year-old convicted rapist who now stands charged with first-degree murder. Herring himself was not implicated in the murder, but police say that he was drunk and belligerent when they arrived, for which he was charged with resisting a public officer.

And while all other story lines from the house pale in comparison to that of Latricia Ana Scott, who died of blunt-force trauma to the head, the case is one more example of the desperate circumstances Herring has faced since he fell into mental illness and substance abuse in 1983. The ramshackle home on Cowan Street is owned by Leroy Grady, an old family friend. Herring is the only official tenant, but when he let his adopted brother move in, Grady did nothing to stop it. From then on an increasing number of Wilmington's homeless and destitute began loitering in the yard. Adams moved in after promising to give Herring food stamps. As a result of his paranoid schizophrenia, Herring is incapable of behaving responsibly, and it leaves him vulnerable to much more than just a misdemeanor arrest.

Herring's landlord and niece help him where they can, but they have limited means. His adult daughter has never visited him in Wilmington, and she said on Sunday—the day before Herring was released from jail—that she does not plan to intervene.

Herring, 59, was kind to many people before he became sick almost 30 years ago. Were you one of them? Did you ever consider helping him? Now would be the time.

PHOTOBILL FRAKES (HERRING)END GAME? More than 33 years after Jordan tried out for Pop's team, the two men are in very different places. Last week for Herring that place was a jail cell.
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