Leading off today:
"Are the best interests of the student athletes being served at Somers, or are the personal interests of an influential few taking precedence?"
That's how Mike Dougherty of The Journal News opened his column Wednesday in reaction to the news that Kristi Dini will not be brought back as Somers' girls basketball coach next season. Dini, a former standout at Putnam Valley and Boston University as well as an overseas pro player, led the Tuskers to a 19-3 record -- the best season in the program's history.
Dini got the news from AD Roman Catalino on Tuesday and told the paper the decision came from Superintendent Raymond H. Blanch after "a difference in opinions and difference in the vision for the program." Blanch could not be reached for comment.
As is the case with every controversial firing of a coach -- strictly speaking this is actually a case of an expiring one-year contract expiring, but there's no sense nuancing the obvious -- we're not going to find out what really happened. Administrators and school boards get to play the "we don't comment on personnel issues" card to avoid commenting on controversial employment issues. (An aside: They seldom hesitate to point out that employees arrested for personal or financial improprieties "no longer work for the district and we are cooperating with law enforcement yadda yadda yadda ...")
In this instance, though Blanch is going to need to say something -- if not to the public, then certainly to the school board. That's because Dougherty connected some dots to paint a picture that is potentially unflattering to the superintendent.
"Blanch is very involved with athletics.
"In his spare time, he's been a volunteer coach in Somers for boys lacrosse and girls basketball teams. He's gone head to head with Dini over the years in Super League and AAU basketball games. She's president of New York Extreme Hoops, which provides training and teams for AAU players, and it's no secret among parents on the sidelines of those games that he's never approved of her aggressive style."
Following up: I mentioned a couple of months ago that Poly Prep in Brooklyn announced the promotion of defensive coordinator Kevin Fountaine to head football coach.
There was no mention at the time of what happened to incumbent head coach Dino Mangiero, but The Advance notes that Mangiero, 57, has been hired as the head coach of Mater Dei Prep in Middletown, N.J.
Mangiero, who played six seasons in the NFL, had two stints at Poly Prep, building the football program into a regional power.
Attention-grabbing platform: In Las Vegas, Russell Davis is running for the Clark County School Board of Trustees on a platform that would ban football.
Clark County happens to be the fifth-largest school district in the country.
"This decision doesn't come lightly because I am a fan of football," Davis told USA Today. "High school football in the small town in Nevada where I grew up was the biggest thing to do on a Friday night. It pains me, but I believe its the right thing to do.
"I believe the human brain is not designed to play football. The brain does not have an airbag between the brain and the skull. There is no equipment to protect the brain and especially the developing brain."
Davis also wants to ban heading in soccer and institute concussion protocol training for all coaches and staff involved in athletics. He also said the district's teams