Winning HS Coach get fired for style even though he had much success


1 Response to “Winning HS Coach get fired for style even though he had much success”

  1. October 25, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    Brian Harris, had success for 18 years as the Somerville, MA girls basketball coach. He won championships, graduated his kids, saw them go on to college and made his players and their parents happy. He was fired from his post because of coaching style. He’s a screamer and that was unacceptable to the school’s athletic director.

    Harris was told by Nicole Vielle. who became Harris’ boss two years ago, that his style was confrontational and intimidating, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Think coaching legend Bobby Knight’s approach and scale it back a bit for high school level kids, and apparently that is how Harris pulled off the success he and his teams enjoyed.

    Clearly there is a double standard here for how girls’ coaches are expected to behave, at least in the mind of Ms.Vielle and others in the hierarchy of Somerville High. The Globe interviewed Harris who told them, “I was told I was a bully. They said, ‘You’re a male, coaching a female team. You need to change your style.’ ” Somerville’s superintendent, Mr. Anthony Pierantozzi told the Globe “I think there may be different standards for different sports and different genders.’’

    In an era when parents don’t shrink from making their views known to school officials about what is appropriate behavior for educators who teach their children, the fact that not one parent or child came draped in lawyers to seek Harris’ head in his 18 year tenure seems odd, if he was such a bully. In the view of Vielle, there is a code of conduct that is applicable to Harris’ position, that is not outweighed by his success or his popularity. Pierantozzi said “There is a standard of behavior that our coaches have to follow.’’

    Brian Harris is a 55 year old African American man whose primary occupation is that of a probation officer, so it’s not like he’s been thrown out on the street without a means to support himself. But he is aching to return to Somerville in his old position and actually was offered the opportunity to try. He was among the applicants that interviewed for the open position, as odd as that sounds. He wasn’t the one chosen, not surprisingly and yet he scored highest in the interview process, according to his account of events.

    Wanting another coaching job, Harris believes that the stain on his reputation will prevent him from getting one. He is seeking an apology from Vielle and/or Pierantozzi but that is not forthcoming and neither is any comment on his firing or him personally. Hard to get a future employer to get the feel for why he was let go after his success without Somerville folks providing an explanation. If it would be his characterization as a guy who couldn’t behave according to standards set out after the arrival of Vielle as athletic director, it sounds like he’s a trouble maker and a malcontent or worse yet, an angry black man.

    Parents of his students who graduated and made it to college will help out if asked but it doesn’t take the place of his employer for 18 years. Tough spot to be in. In the pro sports world, there is a saying. “Success fixes everything.” Apparently that isn’t true at Somerville High.

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