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January 11. 2013 11:16PM

John Habib's City Sports: AD surprised by hiring of Memorial assistants

Manchester Memorial High football head coach Peter Colcord said in a New Hampshire Union Leader story last Saturday that former head coaches Mike Beliveau and Joe Battista would join his staff as volunteer assistants.

That came as a surprise to Dave Gosselin, director of athletics for Manchester's public schools.

"They're not members of the coaching staff, and I'm very disappointed I wasn't told about it," Gosselin responded earlier this week.

Beliveau, 51, just concluded an 18-year run as head coach at Souhegan High in Amherst, where he won four state championships and had only one losing season. Battista, 42, was an assistant to Beliveau before serving as head coach the past five seasons at Merrimack High, where he compiled a 15-40 record, including an 0-11 mark last fall.

Beliveau teaches wellness at Souhegan. Battista is a phys ed teacher at Merrimack Middle School.

Their resumes aren't the issue, Gosselin said.

"Mr. Colcord never notified me that he was planning on adding coaches to his staff. To my knowledge, there were and are no openings there. And if there are openings, that has to be brought to my attention by the head coach," Gosselin said. "That's policy set by the school board, and we have to follow it. No one can just add coaches to a staff, paid or unpaid. We have a strict policy on that, including background checks on anyone working for the City of Manchester."

Informed of Gosselin's comments, Colcord acknowledged he hadn't informed the AD of the additions to the Memorial football staff.

"I just haven't had the chance to do it yet, but I plan on doing it very soon," Colcord said. "I do understand (Beliveau and Battista) have to be approved by the school board."

That was Wednesday night.

On Thursday, Gosselin said he had since called Colcord to discuss the matter. The AD refused to say, however, whether he would support adding Beliveau and Battista to the Memorial staff.

"Again, I'm disappointed I wasn't told about this by the coach ahead of time," said Gosselin. "When I spoke to Peter (on Wednesday), he told me a paid position on his staff might open up. If that's the case, we have to post that paid position, interview the candidates and do a background check."

The same applies to candidates for volunteer positions, Gosselin said.

"Anyone who wants to coach as a volunteer must submit an application, get interviewed and pass a background check," he said. "Nothing has been done, nothing has been submitted to me, and right now both of those gentlemen are not members of the Memorial coaching staff."

As currently constituted, the Memorial staff has five paid coaches, Colcord included. Ray Connelly is the defensive coordinator, Ryan Frasca the junior varsity coach, Dave Gocklin the freshman coach and Peter Gutterson the varsity linebackers/wide receivers coach.

Beliveau's primary function, Colcord said, would be to help him direct the offense. Battista, he added, would assist Connelly.

Colcord said that while volunteer coaches as a rule do not have to attend every practice and game, Beliveau and Battista would do so if Gosselin and the school board approved their appointments.

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THIRTY YEARS after he served as the Crusaders' head coach, Paul Lavigne can't figure out why the football team of the state's fourth-largest school lacks consistency.

"It's a mystery and very puzzling to me," said Lavigne. "What have they had since (former head coach) Bob Chabot left (in 1975, after 14 seasons and six state titles) - four, five, six winning seasons in 35 years? Maybe three or four playoff appearances? It's not like they haven't had any great athletes since Chabot left. It's a big mystery to me."

Lavigne coached three seasons at Memorial, from 1983-85, before departing to take over the program at Manchester West.

"I left because my son and daughter were attending West and I told my son I wouldn't coach against him if I had a choice," said Lavigne. "So when the job opened up at West, I took it."

Memorial won a total of 10 games during the 1980s, half of them under Lavigne.

"When I arrived at Memorial, I noticed a lack of discipline there," Lavigne said. "We had some athletes, but our numbers were down. I was able to change that, but we didn't have enough good athletes to generate a lot of wins.

"Now I know there was a period of time there when coaches came and left, not staying for more than three seasons. It wasn't until Butch Psaledas arrived that they finally got a coach who stayed there for more than three seasons. That's probably one reason why they haven't been successful, but four or five winning seasons in 35 years in still a big mystery to me. A school that big shouldn't have a record like that in football."

Lavigne said that if Battista and Beliveau are on board, "There's no question it will help. But the program is still the program, and by that I mean something more needs to happen to restore the tradition they had consistently back in the 1960s and early '70s. They've lost that tradition of being a perennial powerhouse, and I hope they can find a way to restore it."


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SOME LOCAL high school hockey fans were disappointed with the 4:30 p.m. starting time for Thursday's game between Memorial and Manchester Central, teams who entered the contest at JFK Coliseum with a combined NHIAA Division I record of 10-1.

In recent years, city games had started at 6 p.m. or later on weekdays, allowing more spectators to make it to the arena in time for the opening face-off.

According to Gosselin, Thursday's starting time was the result of a deal he made with the city's Parks and Recreation Department to trim $100,000 in athletics expenditures.

"The deal is, we get free ice time at the JFK Coliseum and West Side Arena from the city if our three high school programs hold practices and games anytime between 3 (p.m.) and 6 (p.m.)," Gosselin said. "Considering the tough times we're having balancing our budget, this turned out to a win-win deal for both my sports programs across the board and Parks and Recreation.

"The $100,000 I'm saving for ice time now pays for uniforms, supplies and equipment for all sports teams, not just hockey. "On the city side, they can now rent the ice to anyone during prime time hours (6 p.m. to midnight) weekly and gain more revenue."

Gosselin said each school will have one exception to the pre-6 p.m. start rule: its regular-season finale.

"All three schools have a night to honor their senior players," said Gosselin. "That's a good thing."



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At the monthly meeting of the school board's athletics committee earlier this week, Gosselin and the committee members discussed charging for admission to more high school sports events. Currently, the city charges admission only for football and boys' basketball games. "Nothing is set in stone; we're just exploring ways to raise revenue," Gosselin said. "Nothing is changing for the current winter season." ... Gosselin said the athletics committee approved a request to let the West team participating in this year's CHaD New Hampshire East-West High School All-Star Football Game return to Memorial High's Chabot-McDonough Field for training camp. The second annual CHaD game is slated for Saturday, June 29, at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium in Durham. The East squad also will hold its practices at the same facility it used last year, Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter ... Trinity High of Manchester is seeking coaching candidates to head the junior varsity baseball, boys' varsity tennis and girls' varsity tennis teams. The deadline to apply is Monday, Jan. 28.


"City Sports" is published Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at jhabib@unionleader.com.


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