Pittsfield High School baseball coaching position draws plenty of attention
The removal of Bob Moynihan as Pittsfield High School baseball coach has drawn plenty of attention since the coaching job was posted in December -- for more than just the job itself.
A number of locals have addressed public officials in public support of Moynihan, whose coaching job was posted publicly Dec. 19. The Generals coach of 35 years, 31 of those as head coach, told The Eagle on Dec. 30 that he never resigned the position.
Moynihan said Friday that he submitted an application in writing twice for the position -- once on an end-of-season wrap-up form last spring, noting his wish to return for 2014, and again in the fall, when he was told the job would be publicly posted.
One former PHS player took his appeal to both the Pittsfield Public Schools administration and City Hall earlier this week.
Pittsfield attorney Ken Ferris, a 1983 PHS graduate and former junior varsity and varsity player for Moynihan, claimed in a two-page letter that rumors have circulated for "the past two years" regarding an alleged effort by a former Pittsfield School Committee member to "get Coach Moynihan fired because of some parents' dissatisfaction with their sons' playing time."
The committee member was not identified. The letter, addressed to Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless and Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, was also copied to The Eagle and School Committee members Daniel Elias, Katherine Yon, Anthony Riello and Pamela Farron.
"I was just angry," Ferris told The Eagle. "Coach Moynihan's put in 30-plus years of service to the city, and it just seems like, all of a sudden, they [PHS] are dumping him without a good explanation.
"I think he has a lot of support among a lot of the baseball people in town. I think Pittsfield High's record speaks for itself."
Moynihan's PHS teams have played in the Western Massachusetts postseason tournament for all but four of his years as head coach, with four Western Mass. titles and one state championship game appearance in that time. Pittsfield went 12-9 last season, falling in the first round of the Western Mass. Division I tournament.
The Eagle reached out to a number of people who feel it's time for a change at PHS, but only one source wished to go on the record. One Pittsfield player from the 2013 team, who asked not to be named, believes a change is necessary. He said he also feels the majority of the Generals players agree with him.
"The guy's definitely had success in the past," the player told The Eagle. "As of late, almost every team he's had, you can make a case for saying he's underachieving. If you talk to former players ... they said they probably could have ended up going farther."
When asked if that should be put more on the players or the coach, the player said, "I think there's no doubt that the influence the coach has on a team, morale-wise, directly affects their play on the field. If you don't have every guy on the team behind the coach, they're not going to play at full strength. I think that's been part of the problem."
Regardless of coach, the player said he plans to go out for the PHS team again this spring.
McCandless said his records indicated four applicants for the position, which had an application deadline of Thursday. He couldn't, however, comment on a timetable for filling the position.
Pittsfield Athletic Director Jim Abel said Friday night that the goal is to have the position filled by the end of January. PHS Principal Matthew Bishop said a committee is not yet set for a coaching search, but said the school tries "to get student and school community input for every position."
Bishop added that student input was a possibility for baseball. Neither Abel nor Bishop would comment on the identities of applicants; a number of current and former coaches connected to either the PHS baseball program or Pittsfield High School itself told The Eagle this week that they had not applied for the position.
The move to replace Moynihan seems to have motivated a group of local fans loyal to the longtime coach.
McCandless said Friday that he has received feedback on both sides of the issue.
"I think, any time there's a change ... I always certainly expect to hear from all sides, which is a good thing," the superintendent said.
Yon, reached by phone Tuesday night, said she had received four letters by mail that day -- all in support of Moynihan. She also said she'd been receiving emails supporting the coach since last week.
Yon, an English teacher at PHS from 1980 to 2009, added that she had been a colleague of the coach during her time at the school.
"From the accolades he's received, he seems to have done an excellent job," she said.
"When something like this happens, and you see all the letters of support ... certainly you want to investigate and get more information."
Yon pointed out, though, that the school principals and athletic directors, not the school committee, oversee the hiring and firing of coaches in their respective schools.
"We are in a difficult position," she said. "It's not as though we have control over this particular situation."
McCandless echoed that position.
"My understanding is that ... at the end of the day, everything comes down to me as the superintendent," he said, adding, though, that the hiring process is "a collaborative effort between the principal and athletic director, and then the superintendent."
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