03/09/14 9:00am
03/09/2014 9:00 AM
Thomas Palasek during his senior season at Rocky Point High School in 2008. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk file)

Thomas Palasek during his senior season at Rocky Point High School in 2008. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk file)

One of the best high school lacrosse players in Suffolk County history — a current professional with the New York Lizards — is coaching the Bishop McGann Mercy team this season, the school announced Saturday.  (more…)

12/01/2013 8:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Lacrosse players and parents at last week's Mattituck school board meeting.

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.

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07/31/11 5:15pm
07/31/2011 5:15 PM

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Lacrosse players from all over Long Island descended upon Greenport this weekend.

More than 5,000 visitors descended on Greenport this weekend — 2,200 lacrosse players and their friends and families — for the 18th Annual Long Island Lacrosse Shootout that saw players of all ages competing for 101 different teams.

Anyone who rode up Moore’s Lane in Greenport Saturday or Sunday found little parking and heard a whole lot of cheering from coaches, family and friends as teams from throughout Suffolk and Nassau counties took over the fields on the eastern side of the street that are usually dominated by football, soccer, baseball and other sports during the school year.

Not so many years ago, lacrosse players had trouble gaining a foothold on the North Fork as school districts hesitated to spend money on the sport that might mean withholding funds from other long-established activities. But parents, supported by Jimmy Howell of the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Foundation, lobbied and now a number of North Fork students are enthusiastic about the game.

Despite his enthusiasm for the game now, Mr. Howell never played lacrosse. His brother was running a league in Mineola and got him involved.

There was a league operating on the South Fork, but “they did a pretty poor job,” Mr. Howell said. He tried to form his own league there without success and then someone suggested he look at Greenport as a home for the annual islandwide tournament.

Greenport school officials — then Dr. Charles Kozora and now his successor, Superintendent Michael Comanda — welcomed them to use the Greenport fields.

The rest, as they say, is history.

High school teams pay $425 to participate while the older club teams pony up $650. Much of the money goes to fund scholarships at various high schools in both counties. Greenport nets $2,000 in lacrosse scholarships. The Nassau Police Athletic League, which has become a partner with the foundation, gets $3,000 for its youth programs, and a lot goes to a bridge program that pays for lacrosse equipment in areas where students might otherwise not be able to afford to play the game, Mr. Howell said.

Businesses such as Claudio’s and Soundview Inn have played a major role in welcoming the league, Police Athletic League liaison George McLaren said.

Organizers and fans get to make the last weekend each July a mini-vacation in Greenport, Mr. Howell said.

“This place is beautiful and the people are all so friendly,” he said. His only regret is that he didn’t buy a house here when he first discovered the village. That was before prices skyrocketed, he said.

“This is absolutely gorgeous,” Mr. McLaren agreed.

What both men like about lacrosse is that everyone gets to play and have fun.

“It’s low-key and they’re just having a good time,” Mr. McLaren said.

If you didn’t get to Greenport for this weekend’s tournament, book your dates for next year, because the lacrosse players will be back on the fields July 27 and 28, 2012.

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