Parents of Pembroke basketball players voice frustration
Pembroke coach Matt Alosa talks with his team during the state championships against Souhegan in March of 2013.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor file)
Matt Alosa, head coach for the Pembroke Academy Boys' basketball team, works with his team during a practice on Wednesday evening, December 14, 2011.
(John Tully/ Monitor photo)
After news broke last week that Division I schools are refusing to schedule games against the Pembroke Academy boys’ basketball team for the 2014-15 season, Pembroke school officials held an informational meeting with players’ parents Thursday night.
“It was a bunch of aggravated parents,” said David Beaucher, whose son, Matt, is a Pembroke sophomore and played on the boys’ junior varsity team last season.
“People were just shocked and disappointed that this even happened,” said Randy Taylor, whose son, Cameron, started for the Pembroke varsity team that won its second straight Division II championship in March. “They were going around from parent to parent and people were saying, ‘We didn’t break any rules, we didn’t do anything they’re saying.’ ”
“They” would be the Division I principals and athletic directors, who have decided to boycott Pembroke after the school petitioned to move up to D-I in boys’ basketball for the upcoming season.
“We met with the administration at Pembroke, and the Division I athletic directors and principals had concerns regarding the transfer students this past year,” said Pinkerton Academy Athletic Director Tim Powers, president of the D-I group.
Two student athletes, senior Adam Presutti and junior Rob Wilson, transferred to Pembroke at the start of the 2013-14 school year, but were ruled ineligible to play basketball by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. NHIAA rules state that transfer students cannot switch schools for athletic purposes and that they must establish residency in their new school district. Pembroke Headmaster Mike Reardon investigated the transfers of both Presutti and Wilson and deemed they did not break the rules, but the NHIAA disagreed and declared the players ineligible.
Powers said “the consensus in the room” at the initial D-I scheduling meeting was not to include Pembroke and that, in the end, “we all agreed with that.” While the schedules are currently being created, there is time to make adjustments before they have to be finalized in September.
“If the situation changes, schedules can be changed,” Powers said.
But until that happens, many in Pembroke will remain on edge, like they were Thursday night.
“Parents were obviously upset that there’s a chance that their kids aren’t going to play,” Beaucher said. “When your kids are playing a sport, you don’t want them to be affected by a bunch of adults that don’t know how to behave, and that’s basically what it comes down to. I’m not pointing any fingers at anybody, but it’s becoming an ego contest.”
What can’t be changed is Pembroke’s move to D-I. The Spartans cannot play a D-II schedule next year, according to Reardon, who said the fate of the junior varsity season is most likely tied to the varsity schedule, but that a freshman team could probably stand on its own.
What the Pembroke officials want, however, is a normal D-I schedule, and that was part of the message Reardon, Pembroke School Board Chairman Tom Serafin and Suzanne Klink, the high school’s athletic director, delivered Thursday.
“I think it was encouraging because the administration, all the way up to the chair of the school board, understands that this is not right,” Taylor said. “They are vigorously going to defend their position and the integrity of the school, so I thought that was great.”
After meeting with parents Thursday, Reardon met with players Friday.
“We emphasized that we wanted them to be patient and maintain their decorum, that we’re working on this, it’s political, and that we’re committed to getting them a schedule for next year so they can compete,” Reardon said. “And I told them to keep practicing basketball and let us worry about this other stuff.”
Reardon said the school wants to find “someone to look at the facts of the matter and not just innuendo and rumor,” though he’s not sure what the next step in that process will be. But he did add that “we’re trying to find a new attorney because our usual attorneys are also attorneys for some of these Division I schools, so it’s a conflict of interest. So we’re looking for someone who is not in that bind to give us some advice. But the lawyer business is a fallback position; we’re looking for other ways to address this first.”
The administrators also informed the parents Thursday that they will not fire Coach Matt Alosa, a position that received support.
“They told us they were going to keep Matt Alosa, and I think everyone was on board with that because we all know he’s a good guy,” Beaucher said.
Retaining Alosa may not win Pembroke any points with the D-I administrators, however. Reardon said that at his recent meeting with the D-I group, one of the athletic directors said, “You need to fire Matt Alosa,” after Reardon had asked what he could do to solve the scheduling problem. Alosa and his father, Frank, are part of the controversy in part because they run the Granite State Raiders AAU basketball program, and both Presutti and Wilson, along with three players who transferred to Pembroke in 2011, play in that program.
That connection between the Raiders and the transfer students has spawned talk of recruiting and improper transfers. Taylor, who moved his family from Belmont to Pembroke in 2011, vehemently denied that anything of the sort took place with Cameron, who has played for the Raiders since he was in fifth grade.
“There was never a single conversation, no implied recruiting with a wink or a nod, there was never a discussion of any kind, that’s a fact, and I never heard a discussion with anybody else who transferred in,” said Taylor, who also said his family moved to Pembroke for multiple reasons.
While it seems clear that the Pembroke parents, players and school officials are unified, just where that unity may lead is still in question.
“I think we’re in a good place in terms of our community,” Reardon said, “but we are not in a good place in terms of our basketball future right now, and that’s what we have to address.”
The solution appears obvious to at least one parent.
“I think everyone should be sitting down at a table and saying, ‘How do we get the kids to play? We have personal differences, there are concerns, how do we address the concerns?’ ” Beaucher said.
“If there’s a group of people in Division I who have concerns about what’s been talked about, let’s bring the proof to the table. If it’s just speculation, let’s bring that speculation to rest and let’s get the kids on the schedule and let them play some ball.”
(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)