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Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017: Faller retiring from two sports at Sweet Home

   Leading off today: John Faller has announced his retirement after two NYSPHSAA championships and eight Section 6 titles as the football coach at Sweet Home.

   Faller, who posted a 217-84-1 record in 30 seasons of football, will also step down as lacrosse coach after the upcoming season. Faller, the only boys lacrosse coach in Sweet Home history, enters his 41st season with 372 victories and six sectional championships.

   He retired after 41 years as a teacher two years ago but stayed on to coach.

   "It's been a great run. I've enjoyed it," Faller, 67, told The Buffalo News. "I've been very lucky to coach at a school like Sweet Home."

   Said Sweet Home AD Chris DeMarco: "It speaks for itself what John has done for the program. He's done amazing things. ... He's always meant a great deal to this district and community."

   Coach arrested: Saratoga Central Catholic girls basketball coach Thomas Coons was arrested Friday for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from the school's yearbook club, multiple media outlets reported.

   Coons, 57, was charged by State Police with third-degree grand larceny, a felony, the reports said. The charge is punishable by up to seven years in state prison.

   Coons was placed on administrative leave from his job as a middle school teacher by the Saratoga Springs School District on Dec. 21 and submitted a letter of resignation effective Dec. 31, school district spokeswoman Maura Manny told The Post-Star. The school board will consider accepting the letter at its Tuesday meeting.

   Coons was co-adviser of the club at the school. Police would not say how much is alleged to have been stolen, but the charge indicates it would have been more than $3,000 and less than the $50,000 required to elevate to second-degree grand larceny. The thefts took place over a period of years, authorities said.

   Coons was arraigned and released in Wilton Town Court.    Attempts to reach Coons and Saratoga Central Catholic AD Phonsey Lambert were unsuccessful, The Saratogian reported.

   Back on the court: In its first home game since teammate Shamoya McKenzie's shooting death, the Mount Vernon JV girls basketball team organized a touching tribute with an assist from Mamaroneck on Friday.

   Since the 6-foot-2 McKenzie, slain on Dec. 31, traditionally jumped center, Mount Vernon did not send anyone to take the opening tipoff. As the referee tossed the ball into the air, Mamaroneck tipped the ball to Mount Vernon, whose players walked over to their bench to greet an unassuming Nadine McKenzie, Shamoya's mother.

   Soon after, Mount Vernon varsity players lined up to pay their respects. Then it was Mamaroneck's turn. Tigers varsity and JV players gave McKenzie flowers and hugs during the emotional exchange.

   "I've never lost someone my age, ever," Mount Vernon varsity coach Ayo Hart said. "I don't know that I could've at the age of -- some of these girls are still seventh-graders -- I don't know that at 12 years old I could get back on the court and focus."

   Officially retired: Friday was the last day on the job for Riverhead AD Bill Groth, who retired after 26-plus years in that role.

   Groth, a former track and field coach, had announced his intention last spring and stayed on through this week to assist in the transition.

   Appeal denied: The more I delved into the documentation the more convinced I'd become that the appeal to the State Education Department on behalf of Jordan Caruso would fail. The odds were already stacked against him when it took seven weeks for the Caruso family's attorney to get a response, and confirmation of the rejection came this week

when the office of Commissioner MaryEllen Elia posted details of its decision.

   For the uninitiated, Caruso was seeking an extra season of eligibility in basketball at Staten Island Academy based upon having his freshman season at another school sharply curtailed by injury and illness. When push came to shove, his circumstances didn't meet the criteria for extended eligibility.

   My interest in the case stemmed mostly from the fact that lawyer Richard A. Luthmann went on the attack against the New York State Association of Independent Schools for its handling of the initial appeals. In State Supreme Court last year, Luthmann asserted that the NYSAIS denial flew in the face of the favorable ruling it had given Devonte Green of Long Island Lutheran. Green, now a freshman at Indiana University, ended up being allowed to play an unheard of seven varsity seasons at various Long Island schools, a situation documented here last March.

   Long Island Lutheran and NYSAIS officials refused to explain the basis of approval for Green's appeal. And though, as a member of the New York State Federation of Secondary School Athletic Associations it pledged to abide by State Education Department regulations on eligibility, it appears the NYSAIS never consulted with the state -- which surely would have denied Green the extra season.

   That's why the most interesting part (to me, anyway) of the Elia's ruling last week is a sentence in a footnote that begins "However, as a member of the Federation List, the Academy has agreed to abide by the Regulations of the Commissioner ..."

   Is there anyone out there with standing to formally inquire to Elia's office how that worked in Green's case?

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