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Thorpe opens coaching positions

The head boys and girls basketball coaching positions are open at Jim Thorpe Area High School after board members expressed concern over the future of the programs Wednesday night.

“The board had a discussion that in order to do right by the students and the program, we should start fresh and get the best possible candidates in the position to save the programs and start over,” director Christopher Fischi said before the votes to open the jobs.

Both coaches, Bryan Bednar for the boys and Milton Moronta for the girls, just completed their first seasons. The boys compiled a 1-21 record, while the girls finished 0-22.

Bednar said Wednesday night he feels opening the job sends the wrong message.

“I ask that you allow me to manage and change the program’s culture as you originally asked me to do,” Bednar told the board. “Changing a program takes time. We have 16 young men coming back including 9 from the middle school who all worked hard and embraced the new strategy. What does reposting this position tell those 16 student athletes who worked hard and put in the effort through the changes? What does it say to the 10 student athletes who quit and resisted that change?”

Jim Thorpe’s boys team started the season with 17 players, but ended with just seven.

“No program is going to satisfy parents, student athletes and the community, but we saw significant improvement in the style of play and teamwork of the men who decided to stay,” Bednar said. “That is the first phase of changing any program, not wins and losses.”

Bednar came to Jim Thorpe after stints as a freshman coach at Emmaus, a head coach at Palisades and assistant at Delaware Valley College.

Multiple players, including Benjamin Goldberg, spoke during Wednesday’s meeting and all of them lobbied for assistant Phil Ham to get a head coaching opportunity.

“I was a senior captain this past year and I can tell you Phil Ham is an incredible person and a great coach,” Goldberg said. “He gave us confidence all season. He built a relationship with this team like no other coach. I believe he would be an amazing head coach.”

A father of two basketball players, Jeremy Gothard said this season was “confusing” for the student athletes.

“If Coach Bednar comes back, you won’t be able to put a team of substance together,” Gothard said. “If half the team quits, the common denominator is one thing and it isn’t the kids.”

On the girls side, Fischi said the board spoke to multiple parents and players and the general consensus was there was, “a lot of fighting among girls and miscommunication.”

The process, however, didn’t sit well with Mandy Kane, the parent of a girls’ basketball player.

“I’m worried we are creating an environment where parents have too much say and I think that environment needs to stop,” Kane said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea where a parent can just chit chat with a board member. If you’re going to listen to parents, you should listen to every parent. I hope Milton gets another shot because this team should not be his legacy.”

Director Gerry Strubinger suggested the district revisit a policy it took no action on last year, which would open up every athletic coaching position following the conclusion of each season.

“That would stop a lot of this if everyone had to reapply after every season,” Strubinger said. “If they are good enough, they’ll be rehired.”