2013-03-14 / Sports

Putnam Valley Fires Coach Wallach

Rich Thomaselli

PUTNAM VALLEY – In what many are calling a bizarre, shocking move, Putnam Valley High School has fired boys’ basketball coach Ed Wallach – just nine days after Wallach and the Tigers completed the best season in school history with an 18-3 record and a berth in the Section One, Class B semifinals.

And it’s created quite the storm of debate in town, with accusations flying around on message boards from both sides – including from the coach himself.

Yet, the only solid thing we know at this point as that Wallach is out as basketball coach and was also told he would not be the varsity softball coach again this spring, either.

The Tigers had a phenomenal basketball campaign after coming off a 7-11 season last year. The team went 16-2 in the regular season, won two more playoff games and lost to Our Lady of Lourdes on Feb. 27 in the sectional semifinals. On March 7, Wallach was called in for his annual end-of-season evaluation, but this time instead of being re-hired he was dismissed by Putnam Valley athletic director Marty Nemecek.

Nemecek told the Putnam County Courier, “I can’t comment on personnel issues.”

Attempts to reach Wallach before press time were unsuccessful, but Wallach himself weighed in on a local online message board and wrote, “He (Nemecek) stated to me that I did not improve the team and we won because we had athletes. I have well over 350 wins in my career. I guess I was lucky for all these years.”

Wallach has coached basketball for 37 years at Lakeland, Rye Country Day, Keio and Putnam Valley. He was also removed as PV’s varsity softball coach, days before the season is set to begin.

Coach Ed Wallach

The coach noted in his post that Nemecek told him during the evaluation meeting that “I don’t do enough drills and my players didn’t improve,” a charge that had also been leveled by anonymous posters on the same message board. Wallach replied by saying “First let me clear up the falsehood that I don’t teach drills and skills at practice everyday. We worked on drills that I feel are important. We did 3-point shooting drills, foul shooting, fast break drills, running backwards, because that is how defense is played. The athletic director stated I don’t do enough drills and my players didn’t improve. He never came into the gym to observe our practices, instead he stayed in the hallway and peeked through the window. When he told me this at our evaluation meeting I expressed to him that he was not qualified to evaluate me in basketball.”

In his post written on the blog, Wallach also claimed the “real” reason he was fired was because of Putnam Valley Board of Education President Valerie Fitzgerald, whose son played on the Tigers’ team.

“Valerie Fitzgerald was upset because her son did not get enough playing time. She used her position as board president to bring about this change,” Wallach wrote, asking rhetorically whether Fitzgerald’s son deserved to play over two other players who were the first two subs off the bench. Wallach did name the two players.

Fitzgerald replied to an e-mail request for comment from the Courier by saying: “As a school board member I take my responsibilities very seriously and therefore I (am) limited in what I can say. As adults involved with children I believe we should be held to a high standard. Although I understand Mr. Wallach was upset, I am very disheartened that Mr. Wallach would involve students in such a manner.”

Wallach, in his message board post, noted that he was hired to coach the girls’ basketball team at PV three years ago, then hired to coach the boys’ team, and re-hired again before this season began last fall. “When did I become such a bad coach?” he wrote, adding “All I wanted to do was build a program that PV could be proud of. I certainly feel that I have, and I would like to thank the student body and the community for all their support. My only disappointment is that the BOE rubber stamped the decision of the BOE president without knowing the real facts.”

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‘No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.’ ~Hal Borland