Citing "the best interest of all the kids in the district" and little else, a New York high school fired a legendary lacrosse coach who won a state championship just two years ago.
As the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District announced its decision to let Tom Rotanz go after 19 seasons on the bench, a fight nearly broke out between a board member and one of the lacrosse coach's many loyal supporters, according to a Riverhead News-Review report (h/t Barstool Sports).
An assistant coach for Team USA's gold medal-winning U-19 team at last year's World Games in Finland, Rotanz led Shoreham-Wading River to 10 county championships, five Long Island titles and three state crowns. A four-time All-American who led Long Island's Suffolk County Community College to a junior college national title in 1979 and Adelphi University to the 1981 Division II national championship, Rotanz earned Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors six times and its Man of the Year award three times.
“I think we need new leadership,” SWRCSD superintendent Steven Cohen told the Riverhead News-Review before declining to comment any further.
Naturally, Rotanz had his fair share of supporters at Tuesday's meeting, including a community newsletter writer named John Ryan, who allegedly challenged school board vice president John Zukowski to a fight midway through the meeting. The two had to be separated by district officials, according to the report.
Some Rotanz backers managed to speak more eloquently, citing the coach's influence on their children, his success in sending players to elite Division I programs and an annual Lax Out Cancer charity game. Shoreham-Wading River senior Hunter Hayes, who helped Rotanz lead the Wildcats to the 2012 state title as a sophomore, may have said it best.
"I speak for the great majority of my team when I say that we’ve had great experiences playing for two great coaches," Hayes reportedly told the board. "I cannot understand why you’re taking that away from us. Shouldn’t our voices be the ones that are heard?"
According to the report, the school district threatened Rotanz's job twice before -- over "serious criminal charges" in 2002 and bullying charges in 2011 -- but players and parents successfully argued a case to keep the legendary coach around.
In fact, Rotanz told the Riverhead News-Review that the superintendent offered him the coaching position for this coming spring with the caveat that he resign at season's end.
"I found it odd that I was OK for this coming spring, then why wouldn’t I be OK for the following one?" Rotanz told the paper, reportedly refusing Cohen's offer.
The coach makes a valid point. If he's really "too controversial" for the school board, then in what world would it be acceptable to bring him back for another season? Sounds like this community deserves some answers. And it shouldn't take a fight to get them.
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