The Situation at DeMatha

High School Insider Jeff Nelson has filed this.

In not renewing the contract for coach Scott Pugh despite his team's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship this year, DeMatha Principal Dan McMahon said, "We wanted to go in a different direction," and did not elaborate further.

So I asked former DeMatha coach and frequent TFBO2F contributor Dick Long, now retired and living in Hilton Head, S.C., what he thought.

He said school officials had consulted him in recent weeks as they considered whether to bring Pugh back next season. And their decision not to do so came down to "communication issues."

Twenty percent of coaching is gamedays, according to Long. The other 80 percent involves keeping tabs on students' overall development (grades, temperament, behavior in school, etc.) and making sure the administration, parents and boosters are informed and feel comfortable with their roles in the program.

In regard to those responsibilities, Long said Pugh, 28, was not meeting the school's expectations, largely because Pugh did not work at the school. (Long did not work at DeMatha either.)

"They had talked to him and wanted him to really communicate better in all facets," Long said. "And inherently, it wasn't part of his makeup. And he's learning that."

DeMatha officials "were really frustrated," Long said, "and feel like he just needs more time to mature and understand the role of a head coach."

While McMahon did not go beyond his "different direction" comments, he was asked what the school will look for in a new coach and gave this answer:

"We hope they're a great communicator, that they have a great knowledge of the game, a wealth of contacts both to colleges to help kids advance who want to play [in college] as well as contacts in youth leagues. You want someone who has all different things."

When Pugh was told communication issues were cited as a potential reason he might be out of a coaching job, he said, "If that's what they want to call it, sure."

Long said he thinks highly of Pugh's technical knowledge of the game and believes Pugh could go to a college program as an assistant if he doesn't remain on the high school level.

Long, like McMahon, also spoke extremely highly of Pugh's character and said, "When you're young and not part of the school, it's very difficult."

St. Albans Coach Malcolm Lester One prominent area high school coach said he was shocked to hear of DeMatha's decision and, not knowing the reason for it, said the job opening will have pros and cons to prospective candidates.

"It's like DeMatha, the name of the school speaks for itself," Lester said the coach, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But is somebody going to want to hop in where they have a coach who's there for three years, he wins two championships, goes to the championship game and loses by a goal the other year? And by all indications, he's well-behaved - and you see all sorts of coaches who aren't - and he does things the right way, runs camps and does things in the summer, and then he's let go?

"So it gives a reason for pause."

By Christian Swezey |  May 29, 2008; 12:59 PM ET  | Category:  High Schools
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Comments

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Seems like this blog is pretty slow.

-Nate in the PDX

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2008 12:12 PM

Hey Christian, you should ask around about the rest of the LAX staff at DM too...

Posted by: ExLax | May 30, 2008 2:22 PM

I give credit to DeMatha. At some places, winning still isn't everything.

Posted by: navyblue12 | May 30, 2008 3:07 PM

An anonymous source?! This is lacrosse not watergate. Lets get some perspective here. As a former DeMatha student, I can tell you that the school thinks that building character, not winning, is the primary purpose of the coach. Everything isn't always what it seems.

Posted by: Go Stags | May 31, 2008 8:06 AM

Part of building character is learning how to be successful. Being successful = winning.

Posted by: Incredulous | June 2, 2008 8:59 AM

Incredulous, my friend, being successful is PART of building character, of course. But that is only part of what makes a good coach, a good team, and a good program. DeMatha doesn't settle. That's why they have the reputation that they do and they continue to churn out top notch athletes and students. They get it - the true measure of a man is not how he wins, but how he reacts to losing.

Posted by: Go Stags | June 2, 2008 10:35 AM

1.) "Grades, temperament, behavior in school" Understandably a coach can make a difference in these areas but why do we keep passing the buck from the parents onto teachers and coaches. The PARENTS are the ones largely responsible for these facets. After parents, a schools administration sets the tone for how these things are handled, especially at a school where they can refuse admission. It may be time for a little self reflection McMahon. Take a retreat.

2.) "The primary purpose of the school is to develop young men of integrity who are prepared to enter adulthood with the moral and intellectual attributes necessary to meet the challenges of today's society" (from the Dematha website). Pugh was a recent graduate of Dematha. Perhaps he still needs development in some areas but isn't that clearly a founding principle of the school. Teachers must re-examine what they do day to day to make sure they are sucessful in the classroom and that sometimes isn't enough. Thus the creation of "professional development teachers" who work with teachers to help make them better at what they do. This brings me to my 3rd point.

3.) Good lacrosse coaches are hard to find. Outside a few private and public schools there are very few qualified people willing to volunteer their time to coaching lacrosse. That said, when you have a coach who is excellent by all measures with the exception of communication why would you not work to develop the young man into who you need him to be. Perhaps the communication of what was wanted of a head coach was not clearly stated.

4.) You can't tell me the basketball and football coaches who have had similar levels of on the field success would have been let go for the same reasons.

5.) If "on the field" is 20% of coaching then why are coaches who don't win always fired at Dematha. I seriously doubt they have communication issues also. Very contradictory.

I guess we can't conjecture about what may have gone on behind closed doors but I highly doubt coach Pugh would have been "100% surprised" about his dumping if he were told communicate better or you will be fired.

Posted by: Tom S. | June 2, 2008 11:01 AM

Et tu, Brute?

Posted by: J. Ceasar Pugh | June 3, 2008 10:42 AM

Since Dick Long wasn't around I would almost have to think that his comments are based on hearsay from a few disgruntled individuals.

My four children have been on many teams over the last 15 years and I would have to say that Coach Pugh's communication to the parents was one of the best I've experienced. High School coaches shouldn't be expected to do any "hand-holding" - this isn't rec ball. It also doesn't appear that other sports at DeMatha require this "hand-holding" from their coaches.

In addition, the Assistant Athletic Director was at every varsity lacrosse game. Couldn't he have acted as a liaison between the school and the coaching staff?

I really feel for the DeMatha lacrosse community. They made a horrible mistake on this one.

Posted by: DM Lax Mom | June 4, 2008 9:13 AM

DeMatha would take winning over building character any day. If a coach at DeMatha created some of the finest young men that you've met but lost, you could guarantee that he would be fired for not winning.

The communication thing is somewhat of a strecthed reason for letting him go. Anytime a player would drop the name of a college he might want to go to, Coach Pugh was on the phone trying to get a hold of that college or sending them an e-mail THE NEXT DAY.

And communication with the parents? Dick Long and the administration must have only talked to the parents whose kids weren't receiving as much playing time as they would like. It was the disgruntled parents who caused the communication problems, not Coach Pugh. The parents who were constantly "snaking" around Pugh's back saying anything bad about him that they could to change the minds of other parents about him, ruined the 'communication'. And how do you blame the way that a group of jerk seniors act? that isn't Pugh's fault, they were out of control and would have been the same at any other school. If you take a look at any other class on that team there wouldn't be a behavior issue.

The given reasons that you received for your article were flawed. Im not making any of this up here. This comes from experiencing all of this first hand through the whole year.

Posted by: ? | June 5, 2008 8:45 AM

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