JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Lacrosse players and parents at last week’s Mattituck school board meeting.
A recent decision by the Mattituck Board of Education not to hire a controversial lacrosse coach who had been recommended by the district athletic director was met with scrutiny from several parents at the board’s regular meeting last Thursday.
During the public comment portion of that meeting, parent Jeanine Warns pleaded with the school board to hire Mike Gongas as the varsity boys lacrosse coach. She said she believes his 30-plus years of coaching experience will benefit the fairly new lacrosse program, which serves all three Southold Town high schools.
“I know there are a lot of rumors out there about this gentlemen, but I’m urging the board to meet with him and talk with him,” Ms. Warns said. “He wants to come here and build the program.”
Board of Education president Jerry Diffley said Friday that Mr. Gongas’ appointment had first appeared on the October school board agenda. The board tabled the resolution, which included other coaching appointments, and took the matter into executive session for discussion. After the board exited the executive session, it unanimously approved the other appointments but not Mr. Gongas’, according to the meeting minutes.
“There was no action taken with regard to him,” Mr. Diffley said.
When asked if it was possible the appointment would come up again, Mr. Diffley said, “We’re going to continue to look elsewhere.”
Mr. Gongas’ past includes alleged incidents stemming from his volunteer coaching and school board tenure in the Comsewogue School District.
The Times Beacon Record had reported that Mr. Gongas was arrested and charged with assault in the third degree on June 25, 2005, in connection with an incident that had taken place in the early morning of May 18, 2005, following a school board election.
Then, in April 2006, the Record reported that Mr. Gongas, an assistant varsity lacrosse coach in the district, had resigned his school board position after the board adopted a rule prohibiting its members from coaching. At the time, Mr. Gongas told that newspaper he believed the ruling had been designed specifically to remove him from the school board.
Last February, Patch.com reported that the Comsewogue school board had not reappointed Mr. Gongas to his lacrosse coaching position due to allegations about his inappropriate behavior with Team Long Island, an outside league not affiliated with the district. In particular, according to the Patch article, the school board noted Mr. Gongas’ alleged involvement in a physical altercation during a Team Long Island lacrosse event in October 2012.
Mr. Gongas also appeared as a defendant on the television court show “The People’s Court” in 2007, after the parents of one of his Team Long Island players claimed their son was being treated unfairly in the program. Judge Marilyn Milian ruled in favor of the parents in the amount of $545, according to the broadcast.
Mr. Gongas did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.
Greg Couch, director of the North Fork Lacrosse Club, spoke in support of Mr. Gongas during the Mattituck school board meeting, saying he believes Mr. Gongas is capable of running the school’s lacrosse program. Mr. Couch said in an interview last week that, with lacrosse season starting in March, he’s concerned that the coaching position still hasn’t been filled.
“We’re really running short on time,” Mr. Couch said. “All of our players are developed and they’d love to represent their school.”
Mattituck athletic director Gregg Wormuth said he believes the Mattituck school board would have appointed Mr. Gongas to the post if he hadn’t had a controversial past.
“I believe he’s capable of teaching lacrosse,” Mr. Wormuth said. “I respect any decision made by the school board. We’re working hard to find the best coaches for our kids.”
Mr. Diffley said school board members are confident Mr. Wormuth will find someone to fill the vacancy and believes the most difficult part of hiring any coach is that practice starts around 2 p.m. If a coach doesn’t teach in the district, he said, it’s difficult for him or her to meet practice and game schedules.
The school’s first two head lacrosse coaches did not teach in the district. The team finished last season, its first under previous coach Ryan Mahoney, with a 6-10 record, its best in three varsity seasons.
The squad went 3-25 in its first two years, the second of which ended in controversy when the program’s original head coach, Timothy Corcoran, resigned following an arrest for driving drunk and leaving the scene of an accident in which he struck a 16-year-old bicyclist. State police later found Mr. Corcoran at the McDonald’s on Route 24 in Riverside.