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Medford school officials remain deadlocked over soccer coach

Posted by Kathy McCabe  July 27, 2011 03:00 PM

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Mike Petrides and his Medford High players following their final game of the 2010 season, a a 3-2 loss to Somerville in the North Division 1 quarterfinals Nov. 10.

A decision on the future of Medford High soccer coach Mike Petrides - as well as a choice by Mustang players whether they will boycott the upcoming season - will have to wait.

No decision was made after a second meeting today between school officials, but talks will continue, said Medford superintendent Roy Belson.

"We're making progress," Belson said in an interview this afternoon. "Discussions are ongoing. They're constructive. Everyone is working toward a resolution."

Belson declined further comment.

Petrides said he is glad they are still considering his fate.

"It's better than them coming back with 'no,'" Petrides said this afternoon. "I'm not upset. It's due process."

At the urging of the School Committee, and amid a threat by players to boycott the fall season, Medford school officials first met Tuesday to reconsider Headmaster Paul Krueger's controversial decision not to rehire Petrides as the varsity boys' head soccer coach.

Krueger discussed his decision with Athletic Director Bob Maloney and Superintendent Roy Belson Tuesday, and the three met again Friday.

"The door always has to be open for discussion," Belson said after Tuesday's meeting.

Maloney called Tuesday's meeting, a "good discussion. We talked about the process and Coach Petrides's history."

The meetings follow a tense, emotional debate during Monday night's School Committee meeting over Krueger's decision to let Petrides go after four years as the head coach. He had been an assistant coach for the prior seven years.

Petrides addressed the issue for the first time publicly, defending his reputation, while also calling for Krueger's reasons be made public. "I understand that my competitiveness can be misconstrued as being loud and abrasive, but as most of you know, I am also a very caring and compassionate man," he said.

"It pains me to stand here and defend myself from slander and false accusations for a program that I have given my heart and soul to for 11 years. I am not willing to dirty the name given to me by my father, and that is why I am waiving my right to privacy and will be answering any questions addressed to me."

Maloney read from Krueger's letter, which cited three reasons for his decision to terminate Petrides.

1. In a game two years ago against Malden Catholic, Petrides allowed his son, who was not on the team, to stand on the sidelines. "His behavior was disruptive and dangerous," Krueger wrote. Petrides was warned not for that to happen again.

2. In a game against Boston College High School last season, Petrides's "failure to control the bench during that game resulted in your earning a red card, thus causing our team to have a negative reputation."

3. In the fall of 2010, Medford High coaches were told to stay off a practice field, but Petrides and his staff went on the field, to remove youth soccer nets.

Maloney disputed Krueger’s reasons for not rehiring Petrides, saying they are “simply not true.”

Maloney said the incident at Malden Catholic happened in 2007, Petrides’s first year as head coach. Krueger’s letter states the inciduent happened two years ago. Petrides’ son was in the stands, not on the sideline, as Krueger wrote, Maloney said.

The BC High incident resulted from “a missed call [by the referee] resulting in an injured Medford High School player.” The red card, issued after a referee heard foul language coming from the direction of the bench, was later discussed during a meeting with Krueger after the season, Maloney said.

“The red card did not cause our team to have a negative reputation, cards are a judgment call at the discretion of an official and part of the game of soccer,” Maloney said.

The removal of soccer nets from a practice field reflected a "communications issue" with the field manager, Maloney said.

“Is this sufficient cause to remove a dedicated coach who’s been part of the soccer program for 11 years, a taxpayer, a former businessman, father of three Medford High School graduates?” Maloney said.

Maloney defended Petrides, and chided Krueger for sending Petrides a letter notifying him that he would not be rehired without having a meeting with him and Petrides.

"This is a total lack of respect for the athletic office," Maloney said.

He said that Petrides received a positive evaluation for last season, when he led the Mustangs to a 14-3-5 record in Greater Boston League play. The team advanced to the state tournament and lost in the Division 1 North quarterfinals.

He said he also recommended Petrides be rehired. "It was clear, crystal clear that [I] wanted Coach Petrides back," Maloney said.

Krueger last week met with players, but did not cite specific reasons for his decision.

He stated Monday night that he will not discuss them -- or change his mind -- anytime soon.

"I will not be addressing the statements or actions attributed to me tonight ... My decision stands," he said.

That statement prompted Emmanuel Gonzalez, a senior captain, to announce that his teammates will not play for the Mustangs this fall. "If coach is not rehired, we will not play," Gonzalez said, addressing the School Committee.

He was one of several players who spoke on behalf of Petrides success with the team on and off the field. "He has become nothing but an inspirational figure for us," said Jonathan Pires, a junior captain. "We're not a team, we're a family of 18 brothers."

Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, the School Committee chairman, told players they should honor Petrides by playing this season. "The coach would want you to play," he said.

McGlynn said he disagreed with Krueger's decision, noting "I cannot think of one bad thing that I have heard about the coach."

"I hope you come back, coach," McGlynn said to Petrides, who was seated in the front row of the City Council chamber at City Hall. "You've done a good job and you've done good things for the community."

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com.



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