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Pierson Hoopsters Comment on a Time That’ll be Hard to Forget

Posted on 05 February 2009

By Benito Vila

It’s hard for kids to know what to believe sometimes, especially when dealing with adults. Learning Coach Marienfeld had been fired last Thursday left more than a few Pierson varsity basketball players wondering what could possibly come next.

The team had come through a two-week stretch where the coach’s language in a loss led to his suspension, two players quit, a one-sided loss was followed by a close win, and an overtime loss at home preceded another nerve-wracking win. Still, to most, all seemed just as it should be, with the Whalers two wins away from a playoff berth, with five games left to go.

But then the news came Thursday afternoon of Coach Marienfeld speaking his mind in the press about allegations made of his treatment of players, and the school administration’s decision to dismiss him immediately, citing “misconduct.”

 “It just seemed surreal”, said team captain Joe Dowling. “If they [that hollow un-understandable ‘they’ that makes decisions far from where kids are] were going to do anything, they should have waited,” suggested sophomore Tyler Gilbride.

Gilbride’s classmate Skyler Loesch was more philosophical in saying he was “hoping for the best” and acknowledging, “It is what it is. You can’t do anything about it now.”


Emotions Run On

Coach Marienfeld had led the Whaler boys’ basketball program since 2005, his teams reaching the playoffs each year. “I’m going to miss him,” said Dowling, a sentiment shared by Loesch and Gilbride, the captain explaining, “He helped me out so much with summer league, talking to me and teaching me what I needed to do.”

All three are accepting and welcoming of interim coach Christian Johns, who worked with Loesch and Gilbride when they were in eighth grade. “I love his intensity for the game,” said Gilbride, “and how teams work for him.” Dowling describes Coach Johns as bringing “a whole new perspective on doing everything as a team,” noting, “He’s hard and he wants to win.”

The news of Marienfeld’s dismissal after all the local papers had published their weekly editions set off a slew of online reports and reader commentary. Some of those commentaries attacked the players who left the team, some their parents; many spoke well of Coach Marienfeld, while others felt he got what he deserved. Still others were critical of the Pierson administration with nearly all approaching their entries with a sense of disbelief.

In all this “posting” and “blogging,” the focus has moved away from the game on the court and the kids out there hustling; in fact, it’s moved away from Coach Marienfeld to commentaries on society, anger, and the roles and rights of parents, coaches and players.


Strains and Pains

What remains though are strained friendships, hurt feelings and an inordinate amount of despair and angst being felt by more than a few households. And the two students that chose to step away from playing are feeling it, perhaps more than most, Nick DePetris saying, “Nobody wanted this. I wasn’t out to take his job. I just wanted to have a good senior season. It’s been humiliating.”

Jake Federico spoke sadly of not knowing how to approach a person he’s known and had regard for his whole life. “It’s hard not to be able to acknowledge Fred in the hallway [at school] because I still like him as a person and love his family.”

Both players described the root of their conflict with the coach coming from his insistence they participate in summer league play, work and other sports commitments keeping them away. And both cited instances of feeling treated unfairly despite their best efforts.

The other comments made by DePetris and Federico indicate they have quickly gained a perspective on what happened between they and their coach, saying, “No one understands he can be a different man on the court”; “He made it hard on himself by lashing out”; “It’s like he wanted to make a point that if you don’t commit completely you wouldn’t play”; and “I’m just fine with it; I hope they finish up strong.”

They were also consistent in expressing surprise at the emotion and involvement of so many adults. Federico concluded, “They’re taking this far too seriously. They’re not the kids that worked and gave it their all. And they have their own ideas about what went on. I’ve never quit anything. I called everyone together during practice and said I couldn’t do this anymore. I didn’t just walk out. There was some [back and forth with Coach Marienfeld], but it wasn’t what people make it out to be.”

Plainly, in stating, “What he did was wrong” and “He was talking down on us and harping on weaknesses” both still feel hurt at being singled out and being described the way they were. But both see life going on for them at school, with talk of baseball, soccer, football and college quickly moving conversation away from a time that’s been hard for everyone.



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3 Responses to “Pierson Hoopsters Comment on a Time That’ll be Hard to Forget”

  1. TMac says:

    Very suprised kid’s did not complain about him. It shows they are very much more mature than Coach Marienfeld was .

  2. bbjones says:

    Get a life Tom

  3. Tom Mac says:

    I have been on vacation for the last few weeks and heard about the firing of Coach Marienfeld. I was shocked to see him relieved of his coaching duties. I am here at 11:30pm finallly catchig up and reading the Express online,I scrolled down to the blog lines and was schocked to see that a negative comment was posted about him and the name TMac was next to it. I assure you it was not me. I don’t know who wrote it but I want to make it clear that it was not me. If I have an issue with someone I have been known to take it right to that source. As a matter of fact when Fred was first hired I emailed him a letter saying I disagreed with the Board of Eds choice but I was there to support him and wish him well. I wrote to the wrong email adress and it was a family member but I am sure he got my letter. I have attended many games even after my own son quit. Yes my own son quit but it had nothing to do with Fred.I have supported him from day one and I stand by him now.Just a week before I went to Florida I took my 5 year old to the youth hoops program and had a short but great chat with Fred. He was excited because he had a young team but was looking foward to the challenge. I wished him well and went to two games and on vacation I went. I am a true Pierson high school basketball junkie.I was in 4th grade when this was a basket ball community. My heroes were Bobby Vacca, Phil Carney, Earl Haye,Paul Benfield Dan Sabloski Bobby Karl just to name a few. I left Sag Harbor in 1977 and came back in 1983. Guess where I was, at a basketball game. I started coaching youth basketball at St. Andrwes and followed Dave Pharoahs footsteps.I made a million mistakes and realized I was not a great coach but merely a student of the game.I had lousy teams, campionchip teams, good teams and mediocre. What was rewardint to me personally was turning selfish wanna be Micheal Jordans into a TEAM. I coaced before my sons,during my sons,and after my sons. I stopped coaching 5 years ago.It was time. Enough of my crap.
    I have known Fred since we were kids. Times were tough growing up in Sag Harbor those days. It sure was not the laddy dah hamptons that it is today. I came from a tough background myself. I did’t know Fred well but considered him a real solid man at a very young age. And a proud marine.A football coach in Greenport. Just loving his kids he was coaching. And arguing with him about us having abetter basketball team. And a family man. And he took on being coach of a basketball team in Sag Harbor. When I think of Fred I think of committment,sacrifice,honorable, and most importantly a teacher. An uncomprimising unselfish mentor that our kids crave for.I will adress this issue more in the future. And I will find out who wrote my name in the cowardly manner in which they did. Tom Mac P.S. I will be attending basketball games at Pierson for many more years to come

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