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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 12, 2012
Winning basketball coach leaves Voorheesville under cloud of complaints
By Jordan J. Michael
VOORHEESVILLE The Don Catellier era at Voorheesville has ended.
The former boys’ varsity basketball coach sent a letter of resignation to the school district last week after having a discussion with Athletic Director Joe Sapienza, coming to a “mutual agreement,” Sapienza said. Catellier took over as coach in 2004.
Catellier immediately turned the Blackbirds into a respectable team, taking Voorheesville to the state semifinals in his first season as coach. He had 109 wins and 61 losses in his eight seasons at Voorheesville. But he dealt with his share of naysayers along the way. Over the years, some parents have complained about Catellier losing his temper and verbally abusing players.
Harris Crawford, who has had three sons play for Catellier Noah, a sophomore, is on the current roster said that he and a group of parents recently had a meeting about the former coach. Harris Crawford has coached Catholic Youth Organization basketball for 10 years, so he had previously instructed most of the kids who played for Catellier.
“All of the parents are really close in this town,” said Crawford, a Voorheesville graduate. “This community is great because we rally around what is wrong and right for the kids. We fought for their rights. That’s what happened.”
He went on, “We had problems that needed to be addressed and we presented it to the school,” Crawford said of school leaders, “They made their own decision.”
“I decided that I’ve had enough,” said Catellier, who also resigned from coaching football at Christian Brothers Academy two weeks ago. He teaches physical education at New Scotland Elementary in Albany.
“It was a mutual decision,” said Catellier of resigning from the Voorheesville post. “You get that feeling that it’s time to move on. My wife is retiring, so it’s time for us to go do some stuff.”
Catellier, 53, told The Enterprise that he built up Voorheesville’s program, but he said, “It’s time for a younger man to take over.” He suggested junior-varsity coach Brandon Karins.
“Some people are shocked, sure, but it’s time to move on,” Catellier said. “I left the program in great shape. We had one losing season while I was here, and we didn’t have very many winning seasons before I started.”
Did Catellier feel any pressure from unhappy people?
“No one pressured me to resign,” he said. “Actually, I got about 30 e-mails that thanked me for my time at Voorheesville, so there were happy parents, too. I was upfront and honest with the players for eight years. I treated them like young men and taught basketball.”
In a letter to the editor published by The Enterprise on Sept. 15, Barbara Meilinger, a grandmother of former player Mike Nolan, said that Catellier “believes in motivation by insult” and that “the students do not come first.” Meilinger also said that, under Catellier, players learned to be punished for playing their hearts out and doing their best. She said that his coaching was unreasonable.
Harris Crawford played basketball, baseball, and football as a student at Voorheesville and has been keeping his eyes on games since 1980.
“If kids aren’t getting mentored by a coach, then it means nothing,” said Crawford. “I tried so hard to get the kids to not quit the team because they were putting their heart and soul into the game. They weren’t having fun on the varsity team. I felt very bad.”
Meilinger told The Enterprise in September that 16 of Nolan’s friends were playing when he was a sophomore, but only four remained when he was a senior. (For the full story, go online to www.altamontenterprise.com and look under Sports for Sept. 15, 2011.)
“Every kid has a different level of motivation, and I tried to get them to play the best that they could,” Catellier said. “Some kids get yelled at and some get a pat on the back.”
Sapienza said that he and Catellier did not talk about negative aspects of Catellier’s coaching style during the “brief” conversation before his resignation. “The rumor mill starts flying when a long-term coach leaves,” Sapienza said. “I’m not about to foster that rumor mill.”
Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said that Catellier did a great job facilitating the basketball program, but things haven’t been easy for him. “Coaches have it rougher than most people because they’re more visible, and people have strong opinions,” she said.
“I hear complaints about everybody,” Snyder said. “You can’t please everyone.”
“You’re always going to deal with unhappy people,” Catellier said. “Everybody wants to play and call different types of plays. It’s the nature of being a coach, but you care about what is said because you’re a human first.”
Catellier’s resignation will be presented to the school board at its next meeting on May 7. A school board has the final say on hiring and firing employees. His letter, which The Enterprise requested, won’t be released until the board has accepted it, said school board President Timothy Blow.
Voorheesville will be looking for a qualified and committed candidate to fill the void left by Catellier, who made the Blackbirds viable.
“This is a loss for our district,” Sapienza said of Catellier’s departure. “He was very committed. He put a lot of his time into open gyms, team camps, and summer leagues. He had a vision.”
There’s always a possibility of a coaching change in high school sports because it’s a year-by-year commitment. Basketball season is long, and intense, Sapienza said.
“We’ll try to find the best available candidate,” said Sapienza. “Honestly, I haven’t thought much about that yet.”
Snyder will interview the finalists for the coaching position and make a recommendation to the school board.
“We’re looking for a good track record,” said Snyder. “Varsity basketball coach is a major position here, so the person has to be committed and dedicated to the sport as well as the children.”
Crawford’s son, Noah, was a break-out player for Voorheesville last season. He played freely to the best of his abilities, but was distracted by Catellier’s behavior, his father said.
“Everybody has issues, but issues become taxing with a coach because you see them for hours every day,” Harris Crawford said. “It’s a domino effect that goes on and on and on.”
Now, Catellier is no longer coach, but he swears that he treated kids fairly. Catellier enjoyed teaching kids the game of basketball at Voorheesville.
“I sleep at night with every decision I’ve made,” said Catellier. “Can you?”
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