The Williamsville South boys basketball position, one that had been vacant since the controversial dismissal of longtime, accomplished coach Al Monaco this summer, has been filled.
Gabe Michael, a veteran area college assistant, ran practice at Williamsville South on Monday, the first day basketball practices were held across the state. Michael said he was named to the position last Thursday.
“Al [Monaco] is a great guy, I know that,” Michael told The News. “It’s a weird situation for me, because dealing with everyone at Will South, everyone seems awesome. When you stop and think about it, it’s about the kids. We had a good experience [Monday]. They needed a coach, and I enjoy coaching.”
Michael said he applied for the position in October and that he was interviewed by district athletic director James Rusin and South’s new principal, Keith Boardman. Michael is not a faculty member at South. Districts are obligated to hire faculty members to coaching positions; if there are no interested candidates, hires are made from outside the district.
When reached by phone and asked to comment on Michael’s hiring, Rusin declined.
For the last two years, Michael was on the staff at Canisius College. He spent the previous four years at Medaille under Mike MacDonald.
“To me, basketball is basketball,” Michael said. “Coach ‘Mac’ was very supportive, he said it was a good opportunity at a good school with good kids. Everything that happened, happened. We’ll get through this year, and we’ll have kind of a target on our backs, but after this year, it will be business as usual. There were people that I trust that said I was kind of crazy to do it, too. ... So far everyone has been very positive with the feedback I’ve gotten.”
On Aug. 24, Williamsville superintendent Scott G. Martzloff removed Monaco as South’s basketball and golf coach after 24 years. Monaco’s basketball teams went 364-211, including several league and Section VI titles. He remains a health teacher at the school.
Several families filed harassment complaints against Monaco in June on behalf of their children, but the Amherst Police said its investigation resulted in no charges or violation findings. About 70 Monaco supporters attended the Sept. 11 Williamsville school board meeting; at that meeting the board stated its support of Martzloff’s decision.