Zach Smith is out as the boys basketball coach at Stamford High School after three seasons leading the program.
Smith, a former FCIAC Coach of Year, feels losing his job was unjust.
“I got a raw deal,” Smith said. “I was doing my coaching duties over the summer and this fall, going to meetings, organizing fall ball when I found out I did not get the job and another candidate was being hired.”
Stamford schools can post coaching jobs every three years and did so with the boys basketball job in August.
Smith reapplied for his job, along with other candidates.
On Oct. 11, the coach was told he lost the vote of the selection committee and would not be returning.
“The policy in Stamford is that positions get put up every three years. That’s what happened with Zach and the boys basketball position,” Stamford Athletic Director Chris Passamano said. “The committee selected Dan Lauture and he is now the coach.”
Passamano said he could not comment further on personnel decisions.
Lauture, a teacher at Stamford High, was an assistant under Smith for two seasons, leaving the team before the start of the 2018-19 season for an assistant job with the New Canaan girls team.
Smith appealed the decision to the Stamford Board of Education based on two factors.
First, policy in Stamford is that a coach has to be informed within 90 days of the season ending that he is not coming back.
Smith was not told his job was being posted until August, nearly five months after the boys basketball season ended in March.
Second, according to Smith, he received an evaluation at the conclusion of the season from Passamano that stated Smith was recommended to return as coach.
Smith said he was given no reason to believe, based on the evaluation, that he would not be coming back.
He felt both were clear violations of Board of Education policy and grounds for an appeal.
Tuesday, Smith was informed his appeal had been denied by the Board of Education committee that heard it.
“I don’t know what happened downtown or at Stamford High School,” Smith said. “It doesn’t make any sense. I had a great relationship with the kids on the team and they were upset when I told them in October I wasn’t coming back. As far as I know, there were no complaints from parents made to the AD during my time as coach.”
In 2016, Stamford High went through a similar appeal process when head football coach Jamar Greene was told he had lost his job after three seasons.
Greene, who is a teacher in Stamford, won his appeal, got his head coaching job back and is still coaching the football team.
“They admitted they were wrong about the 90-day policy. Other than that, the Board of Education didn’t give me a reason why I lost the appeal,” Smith said. “It was the same appeal as Jamar (Greene) and he won, so, I don’t know what was different about the two cases. I really thought they would correct it.”
Smith, who is not a teacher in the school, had success on the court with the Black Knights.
He was named the FCIAC Coach of Year in 2018, leading the team to the CIAC Division-II quarterfinals.
He brought the Black Knights to the FCIAC playoffs in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Smith was just the sixth head coach since 1927 at Stamford High, replacing Danny Melzer, now New Canaan’s head coach.
Paul Kuczo, Herm Alswanger and Jim Moriarty were all long-tenured coaches before Melzer took over for Moriarty.
Willard Kemp coached the Black Knights in 1927 before Kuczo began his 23-year run in 1928.
Before becoming head coach, Smith spent four years as Melzer’s assistant coach at Stamford. Prior to that, Smith was an assistant coach for six years in Lexington, Mass.
Smith was hired by then athletic director Moriarty, who was replaced by Passamano before the 2018-19 school year.
As a player Smith was an All-American, being named the Division III basketball Player of the Year during his career as a forward at Connecticut College. Smith is currently third on the Connecticut College men’s basketball all-time scoring list with 1,393 points.