Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: End of an era for Mount Abe hoops

After 31 years of running the girls’ basketball program at Mount Abraham, Connie LaRose was fired. She took a program that had struggled for years and made it one of the better programs in Division 2. Apparently, the administration, from the AD to the principal to the superintendent, believed a change was needed for reasons not given, and this was three months after Connie brought the fifth state basketball championship home to the Mount Abraham community.

Connie has coached at the varsity level for 33 years: the last year of Beeman Academy in New Haven; the last year at Bristol High School; and the last 31 years at Mount Abraham. Her record speaks for itself: 486-232; fiver state championships; six runners up; and 16 appearances in the Final Four at “The Aud.”

Two long-termed successful coaches retired at the end of the school year. Did they do this because of the fear of being fired? Or did they know the time was right? Hard to say. They both had a nice send-off, much different than Connie’s.

Connie’s Mount Abraham program consists of three teams: a varsity team; a JV A team; and a JV B team. She takes her varsity team to a three-day weekend tournament in late June to a Maine college campus to build team chemistry and to play better competition, with 25-30 teams from around New England in preparation for the following winter. Her team participates in a summer league June-July. Besides this, she manages 8-10 AAU teams from March to June with volunteer coaches to keep the youth involved in basketball to improve their skills. I know how much her commitment is to basketball year in and year out. Her players commit to be the best they can to reap the benefits of a successful season (see the record). Do all varsity coaches put into their programs what Connie does? Tough question to answer.

If you have ever coached at the high school level, you don’t do it for the money, you do it for the love of the sport. As you can see, Connie puts in a lot of time year round to ensure her program is the best it can be.

We all know when the end is in sight in anything we do. Maybe our drive isn’t as strong as it was. Maybe physically we can’t do what we use to. With the time and commitment Connie has given to the Mount Abraham community, she should have been able to walk away holding her head high instead of being kicked to curb for reasons unknown except for our illustrious administration.

Did the AD and/or principal wake up that morning and say to themselves, today is the day we make a name for ourselves. Well, I think they succeeded. This administration has been slam dunked from every corner of the state for this decision, and because of their shooting from the hip they have embarrassed the entire Mount Abraham community.

What else could have driven this decision? Was it someone who has been after Connie’s job for the last few years continually undermining her program? Maybe they wanted the job to ensure a particular player started? Could it have been the AD all by himself wanting to stir the pot a little? If this AD acted because of a disgruntled parent spoke to him, why didn’t he address the issues himself, stating I support all of my coaches and the way they run their programs, or discuss the shortcomings with the coach. Was it a disgruntled parent upset their daughter didn’t start/pulled out of a game and then slammed out of the gym? Or was it one of the other administrators that might have felt a player wasn’t treated fairly? Some people forget you can only put five players on the floor at a time. The varsity coach makes these decisions as she is paid to win and develop her players. Not everybody gets a trophy!

Connie was told she was too negative to her players. Remember, this statement comes from someone who has never coached. Every varsity coach has their moments during the heat of battle on the floor or on the field to say something that a parent or administrator takes very negatively. Show me a coach that doesn’t get excited at times on the side lines, and I will show you someone leading an unsuccessful program. She has never sworn at her players and none of her players have taken the floor with tears running down their cheeks.

Connie was told her negatively was the reason her numbers are down. She has three teams at the high school level. I believe no other Division II program can say that. Yes, the numbers aren’t what they use to be, but much of that is due to the pandemic or involvement in other off-season activities with another sport during the winter season. Check how other school activities and their numbers compare to pre-pandemic.

These three administrators all hang their hat on “all proper protocols were followed.” Wouldn’t you think 31 years would get you more than “all proper protocols were followed?” To me, they are gutless in not saying what the reason was for Connie’s contract not being renewed. For this reason only, I did not support the merger with the Addison Northwest School District because I fear that these same administrators could be chosen for positions in this new district at a higher pay scale.

I write this letter as a supervisor of people for over 50 years. Yes, people are hired and fired every day. In my many years as a supervisor, no one was fired without being mentored and have the opportunity to fix their shortcomings. Not every employee is perfect, but given the opportunity to improve gives them confidence in their work environment. Connie had no write ups in her personnel file. After 31 years being employed by Mount Abraham, you would think she would have been given an opportunity to fix her perceived shortcomings. Again, this tells me someone put pressure on someone to fire her to ensure a player would play more, start more, etc. Obviously, this administration missed Supervisory Skills 101!

Fortunately for the Mount Abraham girls’ basketball program, one of her assistants was hired to run this program.

Ron LaRose

Bristol

Editor’s note: The writer is the spouse of Connie LaRose.

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