Whatís worse, a collection of parents secretly conspiring against a respected high school coach with half-truths or flat-out lies, or a superintendent swallowing their accusations and firing him after nearly a quarter century? Itís not a question for you, really, but one for the Williamsville School Board.
Al Monaco is a good man and a terrific basketball coach who Tuesday afternoon should have been coaching the Billiesí golf team. Instead, he spent the day preparing for the upcoming school year as a teacher before going home. Apparently, the district has no problem with him teaching kids but a big problem with him coaching kids.
Coaches, beware, because the same can happen anywhere if enough parents make enough noise and the superintendent isnít strong enough to stand against them. Monaco coached basketball for 24 years and had a great reputation before he was fired for reasons that remained a mystery Tuesday. He certainly wasnít sent packing based on his performance.
So why was he removed?
Williamsville Superintendent Scott Martzloff has offered only vague responses, using phrases such as ďitís a personnel matterĒ that allow him to answer questions without actually addressing the issue. From the outside, it looks as if his decision was based on parental complaints born of exaggeration if not utter fabrication and pettiness.
Imagine, teenagers telling tall tales about coaches. Itís hardly a first, but most parents are intelligent enough to separate fact from fiction. Or you would expect an experienced school official to set them straight. My parents, under the same conditions, would have ripped into me for complaining about the coach. Apparently, thatís not how things work in Williamsville.
Monaco appears to be a victim of a dangerous shift in culture in which parents think their kids can do no wrong, and teachers and coaches lack support from people above them. Certain parents, most of whom are removed from daily activities, have wrested authority from spineless administrators who allow it to happen.
Folks, thatís frightening.
Monaco heard complaints about high school players tormenting eighth graders who were called up to varsity over them for basketball playoffs. Bullying understandably is a touchy subject in Williamsville, one Martzloff knows all too well. Monaco addressed the issue. He disciplined the offending players by not allowing them to participate in the summer hoops program, and his principal agreed with the punishment. The problem was solved until parents of the kids who were disciplined, in a strange twist, accused Monaco of bullying their kids and running a sloppy program.
Martzloff would have learned as much with a thorough investigation. It appears a man who made a career out of telling kids to do their homework failed to complete his own. A source Tuesday said he didnít interview other school officials about bullying or question the kids. Instead, he opened a case for firing Monaco.
Monaco is one of the best coaches of his generation. He has a 364-211 record over his 24 seasons. It speaks to success, not sloppiness.
It was no surprise to hear coaches from across the state have lined up to defend him. I would imagine more people called him to add their support than called the Amherst cops with accusations about him.
Martzloff insisted Monday his decision wasnít based on parents whining about playing time, but one district source Tuesday was adamant that it was precisely the reason for the heave-ho. If you know Monaco, and I have for 30 years, he would not compromise his teamís success to play favorites. The accusation is ridiculous.
It would be nice to hear from South Athletic Director Kevin Lester, who said Tuesday that he wasnít allowed to speak on personnel matters. Monacoís firing should have been Lesterís call given his job description. Was he even included in the process? If heís been stripped of his power, why does he have a job? Isnít that a waste of taxpayer money?
Ask the school board, which also should have a say in this matter. The board should start with outlining Martzloffís duties and deciding whether he should fire any coach.
The mess at Williamsville South is part of a scary trend in which parents gain satisfaction by taking petty complaints to the top. They donít like the first-grade teacher, so they march into school and switch the kid into a different class. Theyíre not happy with the coach, so they complain to ... the superintendent? And then the police? Thatís pathetic.
The only time a parent should get involved with coaches, particularly in high school, is when safety is being compromised. Otherwise, the only interaction a parent should have with coaches is when they thank them after the season for teaching their kids a few things about the game and how sports translate to the real world.
Heaven forbid a parent would allow their child to fall down, to struggle, to not always get their way, and learn a few things about life. Too often lately, when something goes wrong, responsibility doesnít fall on the kids. Parents blame the teacher, or the coach, or create a means of rationalizing the shortcomings of their kids or, gasp, themselves.
These days, unfortunately, Mommy and Daddy believe everything Little Johnny says because Little Johnny wouldnít dare exaggerate the facts or take things out of context. And he would never, ever tell a fib because, well, thatís not how Little Johnny was raised.
Goodness gracious, people, wake up.
Clearly, somebody is lying. Monaco is left without what he loves most and what he does best: coaching. He should have been holding golf practice Tuesday afternoon but instead was trying to put his reputation back together. He isnít talking, either, but he has retained a lawyer. It smells like a lawsuit.
Getting his coaching jobs back would be a start but, if Iím Monaco, it would only be the beginning. He should be allowed to challenge the very people who put him in this position in the first place. It would be interesting, if possible, to see parents on a witness stand and be held accountable for accusations that cannot be taken back.
Letís get everything out there to find the answer. Which is worse, a group of parents who worked against him or a school district that joined them?