The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) announced yesterday that coach Fan Bin had been suspended indefinitely after it received a letter from several players on April 1 calling for their "bad-tempered" coach to be fired.
In the letter, the young players complained that they had suffered from "repeated abuse, insults and even beatings" during training sessions in the three years he was at the helm of the team.
Fan took over the job in 2008 after he moved on from coaching the Bayi female team.
Thirteen members of the U-19 team, including Liaoning Panpan's playmaker Guo Ailun who played with the senior squad at last year's World Championships when he was only 16, marked the letter with their fingerprints to make it clear they supported the call to get rid of Fan, official ''China Daily'' reported today.
The governing body said it had evidence of Fan's ill-mannered leadership style and decided to indefinitely suspend him until he "fully understands his fault and, obviously, amends his behaviour".
"Fan should take the prime responsibility at this time. We won't dismiss him immediately but have strictly urged him to correct his actions," said Li Jinsheng, vice-president of the CBA.
The U-19 team left for the United States a week ago to play exhibition games there as a tune-up ahead of the U-19 World Championships in June. Fan will get an opportunity to meet the players and apologize when the team returns, said Li.
"We will keep an eye on him in the future and see how he bonds with the team. If he cannot regulate the way he works in future, we will look for a coaching change," Li said.
A bad mood prevailed in the dressing room after Fan used a tirade of "dirty words" after they lost an exhibition game in January.
The sport's governing body said the players'' push to get their coach fired was unprecedented and showed something about today's players.
"The players in the U-19 team were all born in the 1990s and are all the sole children in their families and are part of a new generation with great self-awareness.
"That's part of the reason why they directly wrote the letter to us, rather than reporting this to their team leader," Xu Lan, director of the general department of the CBA, said.
"The old strict and rough way cannot be used to guide them and we need to develop a new model that is more flexible and humanized to fit these young guys."
According to Li, former national hoop icon Hu Weidong, who is leading the team in the US as its temporary coach, will continue to guide the squad after it returns at the end of the month.