Change at the Helm: Marienfeld Out, Johns In

Posted on 04 February 2009

By Benito Vila 

In a not-to-be-believed week of snowballing events, Fred Marienfeld, Pierson High School’s varsity basketball coach since 2005, was relieved of his coaching duties last Thursday afternoon by the school administration. The action was taken following the publication of an interview in the East Hampton Star in which Coach Marienfeld described conflicts he had with two players and their parents. 

In giving his perspective on the events in question, Coach Marienfeld publicly pointed out the shortcomings of those players, in their preparation and emotional make-up. Explaining the firing Friday morning, Pierson athletic director Bill Madsen said, “Our expectation is that our coaches will treat our student athletes with dignity and respect and Coach didn’t meet that expectation.”

Dissatisfaction between the parents, players and coach started early in the season, when one player was cut and the other quit when he was not named captain. The administration instructed the coach to take both players back after much discussion and debate.

Coach Marienfeld’s suspension for cursing in a halftime team meeting during a loss to Mercy, January 6, followed immediately by the two players quitting the team after a grueling practice the next day, added to the hostilities, leading Star reporter Jack Graves to delve into the conflict.


Meet the New Coach

The Whalers were led by JV coach Kevin Barron in their Friday night home game against Mercy, building a 26-21 halftime lead before falling 59-43. After that game, Madsen announced the appointment of Christian Johns to serve as interim head coach for the balance of the season.

Coach Johns is a special education instructor in the Pierson Middle School and has previously coached boys’ middle school basketball and girls’ varsity basketball at Pierson and boys’ lacrosse at East Hampton. A graduate of Lakeland High School (Yorktown Heights, NY), he played lacrosse for Division I Loyola College (Md.) before graduating in 1995.

Coach Johns has had a role in the special education department at Pierson since 1999 and has been a full-time teacher there since 2004. He was courtside for the first time Saturday, the Whalers traveling to Shelter Island for a non-league game and coming home with a convincing 60-34 win.


Above, Coach Fred Marienfeld (right) at a Whaler team practice in 2007


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7 Responses to “Change at the Helm: Marienfeld Out, Johns In”

  1. flip182 says:

    Marienfeld’s coaching techniques and personality was his demise. Never good Athlete himself and half a Marine I guess he was trying to hard to live through his young athletes. I wonder if this was the scenario over at Greenport where he coached football. Take a look at Coach Petri, former coaches Bob Vishno, Gill Dickerson, John Niles and John Bertang they all had different styles but had one thing in common, respect for the players no matter the out come of any game. Respect is earned, leadership learned and examples set none of which Marienfeld held very high.

  2. formergrad says:

    Flip182 – you have no idea what you’re talking about. This is poignantly expressed in your “wonder about the scenario in Greenport”. The coaches whom you describe could be accused of much worse ‘behavior’ in light of what has been attributed to Fred – I know because I played multiple sports for several of the coaches you name. And how do you define respect? Not cursing at a team during halftime? Please. You clearly never participated in any sports or played for any of the coaches you named – or you would never have such a baseless and nonsensical opinion. And how dare you call him 1/2 of a marine? Did you serve with him? Another baseless accusation which you support with no evidence. You’re a low-class person and a character assassin.

  3. Max says:

    Seems obvious that they wanted coach gone, so they were looking for reasons to make it happen. Pierson’s small-town mentality is killing the school, and not just with regard to basketball.

    Also, anyone that can’t take cursing in a locker room has no business playing sports.

  4. whalerfan says:

    I totally agree with formergrad….. if you know anything about the United States Marine Corps, you know there is no 1/2 anything ! Great coaches like Fred get emotionally involved and lose their temper. Oh, and Flip182, did you get a high school diploma? Your grammar says otherwise.

  5. Jim Kiley says:

    The administration should get low marks for their handling of this matter. While Mr. Marienfeld may have violated school policy, the students in question have some culpability here. The adminstration is supposed to be the voice of reason, and instead has turned a bad situation worse. A precedent has been set and not a good one at that. The man has been tarred and feathered much to the satifaction of some because that was the intent. If you want to attact quality coaches and, for that matter, teachers too,this is not the way to do it. The Italians have a saying “a fish that stinks, stinks from the head down”.

  6. TMac says:

    ^ Very true Kiley and you said it the Team stunk from the head(Fred) down,very true

  7. formergrad says:

    Maybe the district can hire Dr. Phil to coach the team. Instead of practice and hard work, everyone on the team can talk to their opponents about their feelings.

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