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Pembroke Academy boys’ basketball faces backlash, no schedule

Pembroke coach Matt Alosa talks with his team during the state championships against Souhegan in March of 2013. 

(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor file)

Pembroke coach Matt Alosa talks with his team during the state championships against Souhegan in March of 2013. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor file)

Principals and athletic directors statewide, concerned that Pembroke Academy has violated rules to build its championship boys’ basketball program, say they won’t play the team next season, leaving Pembroke with no schedule and continuing the longtime view that the school recruits players.

Meanwhile, at a recent meeting, Pembroke Headmaster Mike Reardon said an athletic director gave him advice on how to bring Pembroke back into the fold: Dismiss the head coach, Matt Alosa.

“I asked what they thought we should do,” Reardon said yesterday. “At some point, an athletic director said, ‘You need to fire Matt Alosa.’ ”

Reardon and Tom Serafin, the school board chairman, said yesterday they stand by Alosa and have no intention of letting him go.

Alosa’s father, Frank Alosa, coaches the Concord-based AAU Granite State Raiders, an elite program for students of all ages that draws talent from across the state.

Critics have long maintained that the Raiders program serves as a feeder system to the Pembroke roster, funneling players from father to son against the rules.

In fact, last season two transfers were not permitted to join Pembroke’s boys’ team after Pat Corbin, director of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, ruled they had not complied with guidelines defining residency.

Emotions in some circles run so high that no one scheduled games against Pembroke – which successfully petitioned to move to Division I next season following its second straight Division II title – after a meeting earlier this month.

There, Reardon and Suzanne Klink, Pembroke’s athletic director, met with the Division I group, which was worried about Pembroke’s past and wanted a plan submitted to show how the school would prevent ineligible athletes from playing for Matt Alosa.

The group consisted of about 40 principals and athletic directors, all of whom met at the NHIAA headquarters in Concord. A partition was taken down to accommodate the large number of people, Reardon said.

“It was very uncomfortable, to say the least,” Reardon said. “Nothing asked was unfair. It was just very superficial.”

Reardon sent a copy of his proposal to the Monitor. It includes an application asking for transfer students’ past co-curricular activities and interests in future programs.

Players, plus their parents, who list boys’ basketball will be asked to meet with school officials. Utility companies and leasing agents will be contacted if questions about residency surface.

The D-I group was not satisfied, and it said so in a letter sent to Reardon and Klink last Thursday.

“After hearing your plan and hearing what you said in the meeting,” the letter read, “we still have the same concerns and feel strongly that the letter and the spirit of the NHIAA rules in these matters are not being followed.

“At this time, we have decided the Division I schedule for the 2014-15 winter boys’ basketball season will not include Pembroke Academy.”

The letter was signed by Tim Powers, the athletic director at Pinkerton Academy and the president of the Division I Principals and Athletic Directors.

The organization is a subset of the NHIAA, the governing body of high school sports in New Hampshire.

Reached yesterday by phone, Powers said he would not elaborate on the committee’s reasons for excluding Pembroke, saying, “We still had concerns. We met and discussed it all, and our discussion with Pembroke Academy is not something we’re going to share.”

Asked whether an athletic director had suggested that Matt Alosa be fired, Powers said, “I don’t recall. What they decide with their own coaching staff is up to them.”

Reached yesterday, Alosa said, “The allegations are unfounded, and we have nothing to hide.”

NHIAA rules

NHIAA rules state that students must establish a proper residency in their new school zone to be eligible to play.

“A residence is defined as the place where the student’s parents have established their permanent home,” the NHIAA handbook states. “This means that the family regularly eats and sleeps in a specific place of lodging.”

The rule also states that a student who transfers schools for athletic purposes – that is, to play for a certain team or coach – must sit out a year, even if the family meets the residency requirement.

The rule is in place to reinforce the notion that academics come first, not athletics, and moving to a different school to learn a jump shot will have consequences.

Near the start of last season, the rule was put to the test. Reardon, knowing sparks would fly once word got out that two tall students, both AAU players who competed at their previous high schools, were attending Pembroke, notified the NHIAA and conducted his own investigation.

His report to the NHIAA concluded that the students had moved within the Pembroke School District’s boundaries and followed proper protocol.

But Corbin looked into the matter and disagreed. Both players were declared ineligible and had to sit out the season.

Pembroke “looked into it and filed and I remained unconvinced there was not a violation,” Corbin said. “I felt there was still an issue with residency.”

Two appeals boards, both serving under the jurisdiction of the NHIAA, denied Pembroke’s appeal, leaving the two players to sit behind the bench as the Spartans marched to their second straight championship.

Reardon backed his findings yesterday. He said both players had established legal residences, and neither moved into the district specifically to play ball, although they had played AAU under Frank Alosa and knew Matt well.

Reardon said the scenario was far more complex than merely kids seeking a first-rate basketball program.

“Both boys and their families were breaking up,” Reardon said. “Their parents, mom and dad, looked around and said, ‘My life is falling apart and I have to move someplace. Where do my kids know someone so they’re not going to an unfamiliar place?’ ”

“They moved in part because they knew kids on the Raiders, but they moved because their families were falling apart. It was an easier transition. The families were in distress.”

Another controversy erupted near the start of the 2011-12 season. The Monitor learned that the NHIAA had asked Pembroke to conduct an investigation after Corbin said he had received enough complaints about the AAU-Pembroke connection to raise red flags.

At the time, four players with AAU ties, each of whom had played ball in school districts outside Pembroke at various times in their lives, were playing for Matt Alosa at Pembroke.

Corbin accepted Reardon’s report, that there was no evidence of recruiting violations, but the seeds had been planted that something unethical was unfolding in Pembroke.

The next step

Matt Alosa defends his program by using numbers to show the issue has been overblown. He said after eight years of coaching at Pembroke, the number of players who have moved into the area after playing for his father in AAU ball is “minimal.”

“The number of kids who’ve moved to town before high school is I think like five players in my eight years here,” Alosa said. “The kids are getting advice from someone other than me, and I would not ask kids and parents to move to my town for basketball.”

Still, much of the criticism throughout the conflict has been aimed at Frank Alosa, whose fiery and outspoken nature have left many with a bad taste in their mouths.

“Pat Corbin is fantasizing about finding that Frank Alosa is directing kids to go to Pembroke Academy to play for Matt,” Frank Alosa said during the flare-up earlier this year. “We’re never going to tell you or anyone else to go play here.”

In fact, Corbin said he’s not involved this time. The Division I Principals and Athletic Directors map out schedules for D-I teams, and it felt Pembroke did not belong.

“I’m not involved,” Corbin said. “Obviously the Division I people have concerns with Pembroke.”

Asked whether he thought the committee’s decision to boycott Pembroke was deserved, Corbin said, “I would say no comment. I’m not getting into the middle of something I have no control over.”

The Pembroke administration hopes to regain control tomorrow night at a closed meeting between school officials and parents of boys’ basketball players. The administration will discuss its next move, which could include legal proceedings, although no one knows for sure where this will go.

Also, data will be documented to reveal the number of AAU-connected students who have transferred to Pembroke during Matt Alosa’s career there.

He’ll also receive full support from his school.

“We want to defend our district,” said Serafin, the school board chairman. “We feel like we have a good administration, great coaches and great student-athletes who deserve the opportunity to compete.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments11

This belated comment may fall on deaf ears: Just wanted to say this has been one of the best true discussions I have ever seen on the Monitor comment boards. Also: I know there is a context of controversy historically with Frank and/or Matt, which the Monitor chose not to recap. It is too long ago for me to remember. Can anyone fill in the gaps?

I am so glad we have finally acknowledged that Americans are guilty until proven innocent. Pembroke is required to prove they aren't recruiting. Evidence of residency is not enough b/c Pembroke provided leases and utility bills to the NHIAA (read the article) but the NHIAA said it wasn't sufficient. By the way, that would be more than enough evidence to register as a voter, but the NHIAA clearly has more at stake than the legitimacy of our government. Maybe this is why legitimacy is a joke for them. Instead we have unstated allegations proven by the irrefutable evidence that Pembroke wins: therefore they must be cheating. Until Pembroke is proven innocent, (by a level that NHBBall never bothers to state and the NHIAA apparently measures by geographic caloric intake), than we should assume they are guilty. Fire the coach who turned a program around. Fire an athletic director who has made a major push for sportsmanship. Fire a principal who listens to and speaks with other athletic directors. While we are at it, lets fire the players for trying; the parents for caring, and all the fans who support them. Instead, lets go with GKD's plan of letting kids who don't play competitively in the offseason to play rec/New Pembroke Bball. Just make sure they bring pictures of themselves eating at home and post some NHIAA undercover agents outside their house (I am sure NHBBall would volunteer) to make sure they sleep there. This way the rest of us can sleep safely knowing that the organization run by athletic directors and other coaches CLEARLY must have proof since they have NO motivation to be vindictive to the competition. You want rec ball, this is how you get it.

Unfortunately, there are and have been players at PA with questionable residency. The students know this, but the basketball community is very protective of this information. I've known of several players over the last 4 or 5 years who suddenly showed up in Pembroke, and I was told by reliable sources that they really lived in another town (but know how to work the system with a short-term apartment or using another resident's address). The true tragedy here is the disservice it does for the legitimate residents of the towns...the students who grew up in these towns and would love to play basketball for their high school. Many don't even bother to try out, as they know if they haven't been in the feeder program, they don't have a chance. These newcomers/non-residents take playing time away from the kids who truly deserve it.

I was unaware that Pembroke Academy has a polished, high academic reputation that draws students from all over the state. This is a program that has a serious culture problem of bad sportsmanship since Coach Alosa has arrived. In addition, what other program at Pembroke has drawn top level talent from other towns in NH to the Academy? The answer is none. The baseball, football, soccer, hockey, etc... are not drawing top athletic talent to their programs because of the "good academic and athletic environment". Winning is fine - do it the same way everyone else does. I am not impressed by a high school coach who needs to recruit talent to win. I am more impressed by the coach who wins with what they are given. Clearly the NHIAA and the Principals, Athletic Directors, etc... have enough information and suspicions to take action. Since the suspicions are there, why not come out publicly and clear the air Pembroke? Why not approach the Monitor with the proof that the NHIAA is wrong? Why not provide the information that proves this is a "conspiracy"? Why not? Then, you clear your name, you clear Coach Alosa's name. you stand behind them as you claim. Then, you can hit the NHIAA with a lawsuit for slander or liable. There is a reason that has not happened. You fill in the blanks. When other administrators advise the Headmaster at Pembroke to fire the coach, it IS the job of the Academy to clear the air. Do it. Come public, with the proof of innocence, Clearly there is evidence of guilt thus the NHIAA would not be taking action.

The fact that DII & DI schools have both agreed that there is enough evidence to warrant this action speaks volumes. Frank Alosa did the same thing at Trinity that he and his son are now doing at Pembroke. The only thing Coach Matt Alosa can hang his hat on that he has accomplished by himself is his high school and college stats as a player. Otherwise, his father has done the work for him. Anyone - ANYONE who has been involved with basketball in the state of NH in the last 25 years will tell you that the Alosa family has been at this for over two decades. Now, Frank funnels the Raider players to Matt at Pembroke. Shame on the Pembroke administration for even considering what has happened to be legitimate. I have watched Pembroke basketball over the past 4 years and the culture there is now sick. I witnessed a Pembroke player intentionally making contact with opposing player in the groin at Windham - In fact the player for the Spartans was suspended for it for 1 game. Intentionally dunking in warm ups in spite of technical, running up the score at Kingswood, and the list goes on. Keep your banner & wins. Good for Pembroke. It has been done in the spirit of win at the cost of the dignity of the sport and character of the Academy. If I were the superintendent I would fire Alosa, the AD for allowing this farce to occur, and headmaster Reardon.

So you don't like the father and the only way to inflict whatever makes you happy on him is to attack his son. You speak conveniently in generalities. If this has gone on "for over two decades" where has the NHIAA been? Now that Pembroke is winning again, no one likes it. Pembroke Academy serves four towns.and has won the most class I/DII championships. Will Bishop Brady, which now has a great coach in Mr. Yeaton and draws from anywhere and everywhere with no residency requirements or limitations, and has become a bball program to be reckoned with come under the same scrutiny? I think not. It's all about Frank. By far, the vast majority of the players who have gone through the Raiders program go back to their high schools as better players and help their teams each year. If some families have to move for whatever reason, why not move to an area that has a good academic and athletic environment? It someone has fact based information on specific students, bring it forward. If it can stand the bright lights and is proven to be accurate, then let the chips fall where they may. To punish the son, the players and the school because its the only way to get at the father misses the real issue. We want all schools operating within the same set of rules. The fact a few work harder at it than others is just a reflection of life in general. Further, and unfortunately, you can see examples of poor sportsmanship in just about every gym on any given night if you attend the games and really pay attention. From the students and parents/fans in the stands to the players on the court. This page isn't big enough to list all the taunts and trash talking I personally witnessed during the last bball season. Good luck Matt and PA. Stay home Frank.

Ask your self this? If a Judge/coach broke major NHIAA written rules for the last 2 yrs., Would the press continue to participate in this Witch Hunt? What does the NHIAA or any other NH organization really do to "help" The Student Athlete in this State? Enforce the rules you have, DON'T MAKE UP NEW ONES. there is a lot bigger problems than P.A. and what division they play in... All I ever read is how PA has had to prove there innocence over and over. What about other teams ability to not even get called out about there unsanctioned scrimmages, Recruiting and Extra alumni games being played to prepare for Playoff opponents'??? So much for a level playing field? Lets just hope your punishments are more consistent than Who you choose too Question for Punishment.. And you wonder why coaches don't last in this state? The Ones that enforce the rules are the ones braking them.. Serious prejudices. It's Not our business about a family that is having issues, oh wait he plays basketball he must of got recruited. Thank you Dr. Reardon for standing up for your students, Parents and Staff

It's common knowledge that Pembroke recruits players. This is nothing new. Apparently NHIAA is finally willing to admit it and do something about it.

If it's common knowledge, let's see the names, addresses they came from, their new addresses that you obviously have . That information should also include specifics about family situations, etc. such as a divorce or job transfer. I think we have lost sight of the innocent until proven guilty principle. Until there are specifics, it's all just talk or, as you call them "allegations", from people who dislike the father and like to whine.

Not the kind of story I comment often, but then this doesn't happen often. Matt Alosa, PA grad, holds the record for career points scored in high school, from the early nineties. He was the best high school player I have ever enjoyed watching. The man came back to coach at his alma mater. Last year, we won our first state championship in decades, undefeated. We won again this year, through stiff competition, and an artificially altered team to keep these other coaches happy...Is this what it is like in the state of New Hampshire? Jealousy and sour grapes? Thankfully, the integrity of the adminstration I work for, their courageous love for integrity and willingness to take risks like this explain why I have taught in Pembroke for twenty-seven years. Every coach in this state should be embarrassed by this story. I have never seen such shameless behavior trying to disguise itself as "sportsmanship." I'm wondering if they would care to name their own names, and place their own wins and losses under this scrutiny. You go Matt Alosa. Your teachers and your players are still proud of you. (Peter Mehegan is a twenty-seven year veteran teacher at Pembroke Academy)

Care to speak to the allegations, Peter? DO you recruit players? The readership is waiting to hear the answer . . .

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