SWR decides to bring back lacrosse coach

Longtime Shoreham-Wading River boys lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz will retain his job.

The Board of Education decided Tuesday night at its meeting to rehire Rotanz, who had come under scrutiny recently by some parents who were looking for his dismissal.

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Supporters of SWR boys lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz jammed Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting.
SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Supporters of SWR boys lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz jammed Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting.

Supporters for Rotanz jammed the Shoreham-Wading River Library for Tuesday night’s meeting, where the coach was the hot topic.

Miriam Logan, of Wading River, held up a 100-page document, now referred to within the community as the “black book,” that allegedly chronicles bullying and fiscal irresponsibility on the part of Rotanz.

“Herein are the strongly-worded letters of superintendents making a strident recommendation to future administrations to sever all ties with coach Rotanz, concerned that at his departure coach Rotanz would get a clean slate he didn’t deserve,” Ms. Logan said.

“It’s the stories of individual boys being screamed at, blamed for team losses, of having their Facebook pages mocked and ridiculed, juniors and seniors being belittled and told they weren’t wanted so why don’t they just quit.

“It is a compilation of agony — a decades-worth of frantic lacrosse parents watching the confidence and self-esteem of their children be disassembled before their eyes. It is a letter of emotionally-scarred students pleading for justice.”

CJ Higgins, of Shoreham, was one lacrosse player to support Rotanz, who is a teacher at Rocky Point, and assistant coach Gene Gersbeck.

“Both Mr. Gersbeck and Mr. Rotanz are responsible for who I am today,” he said. “They taught me to how to treat others with fairness and equality… He puts us, the kids of the community, above everything else and wants us to succeed in life as a whole.”

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | Tom Rotanz has coached Shoreham since 1995.
ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | Tom Rotanz has coached Shoreham since 1995.

Shoreham junior Trevor Brosco also supported Rotanz.

“I think you’d be hard pressed to find two coaches who care as much as they do about our program and community,” he said of Rotanz and Gersbeck.

Other Rotanz supporters maintained the position that a few “disgruntled” parents were upset over their sons’ lack of playing time and were taking their anger out on the coach.

“Even the people who disparage Tom Rotanz now spoke highly of him until their sons didn’t get recruited to the D-I colleges of their choosing,” said Jim Brosco, of Shoreham.

Caroline Menezes, of Wading River, whose son Patrick is a senior and varsity player since 9th grade, also spoke out against Rotanz. She claims her son was harrassed on the lacrosse field.

“This is not about playing time and it never was,” she said. “This is about the treatment he receives. Even one child being harassed or intimidated is too many for any district.”

Patrick moved out of the district in early February and no longer attends Shoreham-Wading River High School, due to harassment he received after bringing forth stories of being bullied on the lacrosse field, said his father, Dan Menezes.

The board voted 4-0 to rehire Rotanz and other employees as part of a personnel package. Board vice president Marie Lindell abstained from voting. Leo Greeley and Bob Alcorn were absent.

After the meeting, board member Mike Fucito told he received 50 e-mails and 10 phone calls from residents concerning the rehiring of Rotanz. He voted in favor of giving Rotanz his job after weighing all the information available.

“I think it’s important for our kids,” he said. “[Rotanz] has done a great deal of service for them. I think there’s no reason not to.”

He and other board members would not discuss the content of the “black book.”

A former standout lacrosse player at Ward Melville High School under Joe Cuozzo, Rotanz was recently selected as an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s Under-19 team, which will play in Finland in 2012.

Rotanz also coaches JV soccer at Shoreham and middle school basketball at Rocky Point.

Rotanz has come under fire before, having nearly lost his job before the 2002 season. He was removed as head coach by the Board of Education in the fall of 2001 for what was described as “serious criminal charges.” Behind a spirited effort from the players, Rotanz was reinstated shortly before the 2002 season began, a story recently chronicled in a documentary titled “Senior Year”. The controversy grew from the parents of one player being upset over playing time, as it was portrayed in the documentary.

Joe Werkmeister contributed this report.