Leading off today:
Veteran Buffalo News sports reporter Bucky Gleason delivered a powerful column
Wednesday in the aftermath of Al Monaco's dismissal as boys basketball coach at Williamsville South.
It was about as forceful a take as you're likely to see regarding high school sports, where commentary by print and electronic media is sometimes leveled with "kid gloves" even when the subject at hand is adults.
Then again, Monaco's firing on the eve of the fall sports season (he also coached golf until last week) was a jolt to the Section 6 landscape. Earlier in the week, the paper reported that police investigated allegations of harrassment on the coach's part but that no charges were filed.
And now, amid whispers that allegations against the respected coach may have been parents' payback for his disciplinary action against players, Gleason advanced the story a bit: Monaco heard complaints about varsity players tormenting eighth-graders who were called up for sectionals and apparently disciplined the offending players by kicking them out of the summer basketball program, he wrote.
"The problem was solved," Gleason reported, "until parents of the kids who were disciplined, in a strange twist, accused Monaco of bullying their kids and running a sloppy program."
Yikes. Talk of "bullying" also reared its head this month in accusations against Kerry Bennett, dismissed after a stellar three-decade career in charge of the Cicero-North Syracuse softball program. It was a career-killer for Bennett even though "evidence" against him remains questionable.
Bullying takes on a significantly deeper meaning in Williamsville, where a 14-year-old freshman took his own life less than a year ago. District officials, including the superintendent who is now at the center of the Monaco controversy, came under fire from critics who thought they reacted too slowly to investigate when reports of bullying surfaced.
From the moment that the presumed reasons for Monaco's firing surfaced, more than a few people were suggesting that Superintendent Scott Martzloff may have overreacted this time out of fear of renewed criticism.
I'll come back to my take on Martzloff in a moment, but first here are some other nuggets that Gleason served up in his column about Monaco.
• "Apparently, the district has no problem with (Monaco) teaching kids but a big problem with him coaching kids."
• "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."
• "Parents blame the teacher, or the coach, or create a means of rationalizing the shortcomings of their kids or, gasp, themselves."
• "Martzloff insisted Monday his decision wasn't based on parents whining about playing time, but one district source Tuesday was adamant that it was precisely the reason for the heave-ho."
It's that last statement that is arguably most intriguing of all with respect to the superintendent because Martzloff is not the sort that comes to mind when you envision a top-ranking schools administrator. This is no elderly gentleman with bifocals dangling from a chain around his neck and a bit of a paunch hanging over his belt; at a lean 6-11, which always mysteriously translated to 7 feet and change when the coach mailed his preseason roster to the newspaper, Martzloff is still the first guy you're choosing for a pickup halfcourt game in the gym.
What also stands out is that Martzloff's appearance is that he is still a relatively young guy. Before he moved quickly through the administrative ranks in the Rochester City School District and served as superintendent at Byron-Bergen ahead of arriving in Williamsville 13 months ago, Martzloff helped a star-studded McQuaid team to a