Citing a hostile environment brought on by dissatisfied players and parents, Nick D’Angelo resigned as the head coach of Coginchaug Tuesday.
D’Angelo also said his coaching staff has resigned in protest against the allegations brought forward by parents to the school.
D’Angelo, a Hamden police officer and former assistant at Hillhouse, was hired at Coginchaug this year to replace John Bozzi. He coached the team to a 3-5 record through eight weeks.
On Friday night during a 21-6 loss to Stafford/Somers/East Windsor, D’Angelo said his decision to reprimand a player set off a chain of events which ultimately compelled him to resign.
“The patients want to run the asylum,” D’Angelo said. “It’s a toxic environment. I have to stand by my guns. I wish my AD, Nick Barbieri and my principal Brian Falcone all the best. I thank them for their support and the opportunity. They were great bosses. But I can’t work in a place like that. I don’t know who’d want to. I don’t know what they’re going to do.”
Coginchaug has two games remaining, against Granby at home on Saturday and at Gilbert/Northwestern on Thanksgiving. As of Wednesday afternoon, it wasn’t known who would coach the final two games of the year.
Coginchaug athletic director Nick Barberi and Principal Brian Falcone could not immediately be reached for comment. Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Veronesi did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. School offices are closed for Veterans Day.
[UPDATE Thursday, Nov. 12, 12:30 p.m.: Superintendent Veronesi released a statement Thursday afternoon that school officials would be meeting with Parents Thursday and would attempt to find a qualified coaching staff to finish the final two games. She said the investigation into claims against D’Angelo were ongoing.]
Granby coach Rick Gadoury said as far as he’s been told, the game is still on as scheduled.
UPDATE: Nov. 12, 1:10 p.m.: Coginchaug has forfeited its Saturday game vs. Granby Memorial, the CIAC announced. Director of communication Joel Cookson said the school’s reason was “the resignation of the coaching staff.” (Granby has now unofficially clinched its first state playoff spot in school history).
“There are some great kids there who got it — guys like Parker Tregoning, Cam Powers, Connor Salva, Erik Stanzel — who bought hard into my coaching,” D’Angelo said. “I’ll miss them. But there are others who are empowered who are ruling things. They don’t look at the big picture. Well, they got what they wanted. Now they don’t have a coaching staff. It’s sad. It really is.”
D’Angelo said his decision to reprimand one of his players was supported by the administration, although Coginchaug did verbally warn D’Angelo for swearing when he confronted the player after the game. “I lost my cool for a few seconds, and I shouldn’t have swore,” D’Angelo said. “I understood that. But they agreed with me. And that was it. I was still there.”
But in the following days, D’Angelo said, several seniors quit and parents went to Falcone’s office with grievances against his program.
“They said I don’t care about the kids, that I’m a bully, that nobody wants to play for me, that the locker room’s a hostile environment,” D’Angelo said. “A whole bunch of crazy stuff that isn’t true.
“They decided that me not being reprimanded wasn’t good enough. They stacked the box against me and I had nowhere to go.”
D’Angelo said when the administration decided it would have to suspend him to investigate the complaints, D’Angelo told the school he would rather resign.
“They’re all false,” he said of the allegations. “But it was a fight I didn’t want to fight. It’s not the administration. It’s a great administration. I told them I understand they have to do their jobs, but that I couldn’t be there anymore.”
D’Angelo said his coaching staff, which included two former Coginchaug players, also resigned when they were informed of the allegations.
“Those guys, whose dream it was to come back and coach for their school, they could have been the head coach there. That they quit speaks volumes about what’s going on there,” D’Angelo said. “They were going to stick it out, but once they heard what the complaints were they said, ‘Nope. That’s not right.'”
“It was always my dream to be a head coach and I know this is going to push me back years, but I have to stand up for myself,” D’Angelo said. “Kids aren’t being held accountable. The kids finally rallied around something, but unfortunately it was something negative.”