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|Outrage over Sweet: Parents and players rally to save coach's job|
|Wednesday, 29 July 2009 11:23|
Duxbury lacrosse players battled for Chris Sweet on the field, winning six state titles in a row â€“â€“ now theyâ€™re fighting to help their coach keep his job.
Sweet supporters have started a petition drive asking school officials to reconsider their decision not to renew the coachâ€™s contract after 14 years on the job.
Teammates like midfielder John Ricciardi hope to meet personally with Superintendent Sue Skeiber to voice their support for Sweet.
â€œIâ€™m really disappointed and I donâ€™t see why [the school administration] did this,â€ Ricciardi said. â€œI thought he was a great coach and helped me out a lot.â€
Starting defenseman JB Marston acknowledged that Sweetâ€™s style could rub some people the wrong way, but said losing him as coach would be a mistake by the school.
â€œOn and off the field, he helped you be a good guy and a good player. Iâ€™m definitely going to fight for him and help to get him back,â€ he said.
Jane Bradley, whose son played lacrosse, started an online petition to keep Sweet at DHS. Bradley sent copies of the petition, which now has over 200 signatures at ipetitions.com, to Skeiberâ€™s office and to the School Committee in hopes they will reconsider the decision to let him go.
â€œI donâ€™t have a political stake in this, I just know he is a great coach and great for the town,â€ Bradley said. â€œThis is a really big deal for the town, not just for the sports program or a few individuals.â€
One of last yearâ€™s captains, Kyle Gavoni, voiced support for his coach, saying Sweet gets the best out of his players.
â€œAt times, he was hard, but thatâ€™s what it takes to win,â€ Gavoni said. â€œHe told us each day, each practice, we needed to get better and got us motivated. He was not trying to be mean or anything like that.â€
â€œHe plays to win and that is something I definitely respect,â€ added junior attack Kane Haffey. â€œI feel like, if I was the coach, I would want the best people on the field.â€
Haffey said he plans on playing lacrosse for Duxbury next season even if Sweet does not return, but said it will also depend on his potential replacement. Ricciardi also said he was not sure if he would play if the school administration stands by their decision not to bring Sweet back.
Sweet thanked the players for their loyalty, but urged every player not to let his situation impact their future in lacrosse.
â€œAs much as I appreciate the intention, they should play,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s hard for the kids, but I would not want to put players in that situation.â€
Sweet also works with the Duxbury Youth Lacrosse programs and travel teams in addition to his duties at the high school level. Bill Oâ€™Toole, whose son played for Sweet in the youth program, said he hopes the coach will still be around when his son enters high school. Oâ€™Toole and a group of parents recently took out a newspaper ad asking the superintendent to reconsider her decision.
â€œIâ€™ve never been in a high school locker room with Chris, but at my sonâ€™s level, I have nothing but good things to say about him,â€ Oâ€™Toole said. â€œI would have him coach my son in an minute, and itâ€™s my sincere hope Chris is there long enough to coach [him].â€
For his part, Sweet thanked his supporters for their efforts on his behalf.
â€œItâ€™s been very humbling,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s been an emotional roller coaster and I, for one, hope it was all just a big misunderstanding.â€
Skeiber returned from a vacation Monday and declined to comment on Sweetâ€™s status. An attorney handling the matter for the school district, Michelle McNulty of Murphy, Lamere and Murphy P.C. in Braintree, was out of the office last week and calls to another attorney at the firm were not returned as of press time.
Sweet said he has not been able to meet with Skeiber since her return. He said the superintendent has never met him face to face.
â€œI think it would be fair for her to get to know me,â€ he said.
Sweet said he has hired his own counsel, Wayne Dennison of Brown Rudnick LLP in Boston. He said that the district cut off all communication to himself and the assistant coach about a month and a half ago. However, he said his goal is not litigation â€“â€“ merely to get his job back.
â€œThe only reason I hired a lawyer is because the school involved theirs,â€ Sweet said. â€œIâ€™m not looking to sue anyone.â€
Skeiber informed the School Committee that Sweetâ€™s contract would not be renewed for next season at their July 8 meeting, in executive session. Sweet, who has coached for 14 years at DHS, led the Dragons to seven of the last eight Division I state championships. His contract is on a year-to-year basis.
Sweet said he still hasnâ€™t received official word from the administration as to why his contract wasnâ€™t renewed, although he did address some persistent rumors about his departure (click here to read his answers).
He confirmed that he has already received offers to coach elsewhere, but reiterated his desire to remain at the high school.
â€œI still very much want to coach in Duxbury,â€ he said. â€œThat is where my heart is.â€