A couple of weeks ago, Ed Barbante walked into the Mattituck athletic director’s office to check on plans for the fall season for the girls soccer team he coached. Then he found out he wasn’t included in those plans.
Barbante, contacted by a reporter on Monday, told The Suffolk Times that he is no longer the coach of the Tuckers. He said that was made clear to him by the athletic director, Gregg Wormuth, who advised Barbante that he would be “better off exploring other options.”
“I was told there was no chance of me coaching next year,” Barbante said.” It’s pretty black and white to me. The handwriting is on the wall, so to speak.”
Barbante said he wasn’t given an explanation for why his six-year run as Mattituck’s coach was ended. “I have my own thoughts that I’m not really able to say publicly,” he said. “Yeah, it blindsided me. I’m devastated. I’m upset about it because I feel I have done nothing wrong, and I don’t know what the agenda is.”
Asked about the Barbante situation, Wormuth said: “That’s a personnel issue. I’m not going to talk about it.”
The one-year appointment for the coaching position hasn’t been advertised yet. Wormuth said he would like to have the lineup of fall sports coaches set in May or June so coaches can prepare their athletes over the summer.
Barbante had a tough act to follow. He took over the Tuckers in 2006, the year after they went 19-1-1 and won the state championship under Tom Farrell, who then stepped down from the post. In the six years since, Mattituck went 68-27-14 (.624) under Barbante. He guided the Class B Tuckers to a regional final in 2008, when a 1-0 loss to Cold Spring Harbor denied them of a place in the New York State final four. In four of the six years, Mattituck reached the Suffolk County final, losing three of them. That includes losses to a powerful Center Moriches team in the past two years. Last year Mattituck went 9-7-1.
“It’s been very pleasurable,” Barbante said of his time as Mattituck’s coach. “I can’t really say anything bad. Each season has its ups and downs. You have some winning streaks and losing streaks. When I sum it up, the good times that we had, they totally outweigh the bad.”
Barbante said he had a good rapport with his players.
Regardless, rumors that Barbante’s job was in jeopardy last summer swirled like a soccer ball on a corner kick until later in the summer when Wormuth and Barbante both confirmed that he remained the coach.
But Barbante’s status has changed since then.
“For whatever reason, they want to go in a different direction, and it’s unfortunate because I gave everything I had to coach this team and keep the program going,” Barbante said. “For me not to be a part of it is upsetting.”
Soccer is the headline sport at Mattituck High School, and it draws a good deal of scrutiny. Barbante said he used to joke that coaching girls soccer in Mattituck is sort of like coaching the New York Yankees, on a much smaller scale, of course.
Barbante, who recently celebrated his 35th birthday, was a goalkeeper for Shoreham-Wading River High School and St. Joseph’s College. He was inducted into the St. Joseph’s College Hall of Fame a couple of years ago.
Barbante enjoys the support of some, including two former players, Marissa Jacobs and Nicole Guja. “Not only has Mr. Barbante succeeded as a coach but he has impacted our lives as a tremendous role model,” they wrote in a letter to The Suffolk Times. “His positive attitude, commitment to his team, and strong leadership qualities are admirable. He taught us much more than what was just left on the field.
“He has proven himself worthy with all of his accomplishments as a coach. He was thrown into an incredible program that had just come off a state championship win, and took over with great pride, and helped the new team excel. He has always put 110% into the team, and has succeeded with multiple league championships and a county championship. One of the most important aspects to not overlook is that Barbante has been able to gain the TRUSTand RESPECT from his players.”