After 23 years of service, Don O’Brien, head coach of the Westhampton Beach High School boys’ varsity soccer team, was fired on Monday night.
Although district officials have declined to divulge any information on what led to the coach’s termination, two parents whose children play on the team said Mr. O’Brien was let go after a player reported him for swearing during an away game against Rocky Point on September 17.
Mr. O’Brien, who also is a physical education teacher at Westhampton Beach High School, received a $6,621.25 stipend for coaching the team this season. He is still employed by the district as an educator.
He declined to comment when reached this week.
Boys junior varsity soccer coach Cody Hoyt was promoted to the varsity coach position on Monday night, after the Board of Education approved Schools Superintendent Michael Radday’s recommendation to fire Mr. O’Brien.
One of the parents in attendance on Monday night, Tom Brezinsky, said the student who leveled the charge was frustrated with the coach and made up the story to get back at him. Mr. Brezinsky was joined by fellow parent Frank Lombardo during Monday’s meeting.
Both fathers said they were upset with the way the district handled its investigation, which involved High School Principal Christopher Herr, Athletic Director Kathy Masterson and Mr. Radday questioning the students about the game at Rocky Point and other incidents regarding Mr. O’Brien.
“The kids got pulled out of class and away from tests for this,” Mr. Brezinsky said. “It was not handled the right way.”
Mr. Radday said although some of the investigation took place during school hours, the district was careful not to disrupt the students’ academic schedules.
Although Mr. Radday would not discuss the specifics of the investigation, or confirm what prompted it, he said his discoveries during the probe led him to recommend that the board dismiss Mr. O’Brien as coach, retroactive to September 29.
“Coaches are appointed on a year-to-year basis and hold no long-term rights to coaching positions,” Mr. Radday wrote in an email. “In view of the fact that this is a personnel matter, I cannot provide any additional details at this time. This decision, as with all personnel decisions, was made in the best interests of our students.”
Westhampton Beach Board of Education President Suzanne Mensch declined to comment on the board’s decision, citing district policy not to discuss personnel matters in public.
Mr. Lombardo said in addition to the stress of being pulled away from an exam to be questioned, his son has suffered a great amount of emotional stress because of the coach’s dismissal. Mr. Lombardo explained that his son, now a junior, left Westhampton Beach after his freshman year but chose to return this year just to play for Mr. O’Brien.
Mr. Lombardo and Mr. Brezinsky both praised Mr. O’Brien for his dedication and generosity, particularly his willingness to spend his own money to buy shorts for players who cannot afford their own and sponsoring a local family’s Christmas last year. Mr. O’Brien also received much praise for setting up a charity soccer game in honor of his former player, Juan Cárdenas, who died in a motorcycle accident in July 2013.
“They’re penalizing a guy who’s done nothing but good for others,” Mr. Lombardo said.