The Manchester Board of School Committee recently approved a teacher who has no high school coaching experience to lead the varsity baseball team at Manchester Central this spring.
Kevin O'Leary, a science teacher at Central who served as a volunteer tennis coach for one season at Memorial and coached Babe Ruth baseball in Dover, will succeed Andy Laroche, who resigned last summer.
O'Leary wasn't the choice of Manchester Public Schools athletics director Dave Gosselin. Gosselin's choice since the job was posted last summer was former Little Green baseball player Mike Cotter, who served the last seven seasons as the head JV coach at Central under Laroche.
There won't be an eighth season because Cotter announced Thursday he had submitted his resignation as JV coach.
"I want to congratulate Kevin, who is a friend and a good person I respect," said Cotter. "It's not his fault I didn't get the job. I have decided to resign as the JV coach because I don't want to be a distraction to the baseball program at Central. I am disappointed I didn't get the coaching job because Mr. Gosselin and (Central High athletics director) Jane Clayton went through the whole (interview) process and decided I was their guy to coach the varsity team."
Gosselin confirmed Cotter was his guy.
"I went to bat three times for Mike and each time his nomination was turned down," said Gosselin.
Adam Lawrence, a teacher at Manchester West, and Nick Jaskolka, a teacher at Hillside Junior High, both applied for the Central varsity baseball post. Lawrence previously served as the varsity baseball coach at West for five seasons, and Jaskolka coached at Goffstown. Last summer Jaskolka coached the Goffstown American Legion baseball program to the state final, finishing runner-up to Concord Post 21.
Lawrence and Jaskolka both graduated from Memorial, where they played baseball. On the college level, Lawrence played for Keene State and Jaskolka played for Plymouth State.
Neither turned out to be a finalist for the Central job.
The stumbling block with Cotter's nomination was that he is a paraprofessional at Manchester West.
"I work for and get paid by the Hooksett School District, not the Manchester School District," said Cotter. "But that never stopped (the Manchester Board of School Committee) from hiring me seven straight years as their JV coach. So now I wonder, what's the difference? Why is it OK to be a paraprofessional and get the JV coaching job at Central and not the varsity coaching job? I don't get it."
Gosselin couldn't answer that question because, he said, Cotter was certainly qualified for the varsity job.
"Every time Mike's name came up for nomination, his status as a paraprofessional came up and his nomination was tabled," said Gosselin. "Some board members asked me to research whether a paraprofessional has the same first bidding rights for the job as a teacher in the building."
Gosselin soon learned that a paraprofessional is actually third on the list.
"If you're a teacher in the building from the Manchester School District and you're qualified to coach, you get first consideration," said Gosselin. "The second person is a teacher outside the building, and then it's the paraprofessional."
Cotter said he's also disappointed that no school board member bothered to speak with him.
"No board member ever interviewed me," said Cotter. "You would think someone would have. It wasn't like I was coming, you know, out of no where. I played varsity baseball for Central and coached the JV team at Central for the last seven years. It's really disappointing."
Cotter said Laroche submitted a letter to Gosselin in support of Cotter as the next varsity coach.
O'Leary said he applied for the job in December after talking to Cotter.
"I asked Mike first if he would mind if I applied for the job, and Mike said he didn't mind," said O'Leary. "I really feel for Mike, but the school committee followed the (Manchester Education Association) contract."
As for his lack of coaching experience on the high school level, O'Leary said, "I feel comfortable because I know the game. Was it an ideal route to go straight to the varsity level? Probably not. But I know many of the players, and followed the team last year when I worked the scoreboard and announced the home games at Gill Stadium."
While O'Leary wasn't his top pick, Gosselin said, he fully supports the new coach.
O'Leary played for the Manchester Babe Ruth League and was a three-time all-star player. He is a graduate of Trinity High and was a Class L All-State selection as a member of the Pioneers.
"From everything I've heard from a number of people and getting to know Kevin a little through the nomination process, he's a quality person," said Gosselin. "He's earned the respect of the students and athletes at Central. He knows the game of baseball. I'm looking forward to working with him this spring."
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THE 20TH annual Manchester High School West JV Boys' Basketball Invitational begins today at 9 a.m. at Charles Quinn Gym. The 16-team single-elimination tournament features eight games today.
The match-ups are Manchester Central vs. Concord, 9 a.m.; Pinkerton vs. Dover, 10:30 a.m.; Exeter vs. Bishop Guertin, noon; Manchester West vs. Merrimack, 1:30 p.m.; Winnacunnet vs. Londonderry, 3 p.m.; Salem vs. Manchester Memorial, 4:30 p.m.; Spaulding vs. Nashua South, 6 p.m.; and Alvirne vs. Nashua North at 7:30 p.m.
On Sunday in the quarterfinals, the Spaulding-South winner plays the North-Alvirne winner at 10 a.m. and the Memorial-Salem winner plays the Londonderry-Winnacunnet winner at 11:30 a.m. The Exeter-BG winner will play the winner of West-Merrimack contest at 1 p.m. and the Central-Concord winner plays the Pinkerton-Dover winner at 2:30 p.m.
The semifinals are Sunday at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The championship game is Monday at 6 p.m.
"This tournament serves as the appetizer before the (Division I) varsity tournament starts," said Manchester West varsity coach Dan Bryson. "This tournament will showcase the future varsity players in the Division I League."
Winnacunnet is the defending champion of this tournament, beating Central, 40-39, in the final last year. The Little Green have finished runner-up the last two seasons and Memorial was the last city team to win the tournament, in 2011.
Admission will be charged at the door each day and a 15-game tournament pass will be offered Saturday for $12. "City Sports" appears Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org.