Long-serving St. Joseph’s College coach and athletic director Frank Carbone was abruptly fired from his position at the Clinton Hill school last week, leaving many alumni angry and petitioning for his return.
The news of the beloved coach’s ouster came on Sept. 15 in a mass e-mail to students from assistant vice president and senior director of athletics Shantey Hill, who offered no explanation for the shocking move.
The school later issued a statement saying only that after a lengthy assessment it determined that the Bears’ athletic programs needed new leadership, and thanked the longtime coach for his service.
“The decision to replace Mr. Frank Carbone as athletics director was not an easy one, and in no way diminishes the significant contributions he made to the College and its athletic programs in Brooklyn over the past 18 years,” said school spokeswoman Jessica McAleer Decatur in a statement.
Carbone, a Greenpoint native, began coaching at the school in 1997 when he was hired to lead the women’s basketball team. He was also the coach of the softball program that he started, as well as the tennis teams. Under his watch, the Bears’ athletic program grew from three varsity sports to 13, and he was the driving force behind its attainment of full NCAA Division III membership in 2011. The Bears began competing in the Skyline conference this fall.
The court at the newly opened Hill Center — St. Joseph’s first on-campus athletics venue for the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams — is even named in Carbone’s honor.
“While the College has come a long way over the past few years with the creation of The Hill Center and admission into the Skyline Conference, we see [Carbone’s replacement] as only a step toward continued growth, development and excellence,” McAleer Decatur said.
Carbone gave up his coaching positions last month, saying he wanted to focus on his duties as athletic director. The school has already filled the basketball and tennis coaching positions.
Hill’s e-mail said that associate athletic director Alex Winnicker, who was hired in June, will take over on an interim basis until further notice. The school has not posted the news on its athletics website, but Carbone was removed from the staff directory.
Carbone has not responded to requests for comment.
The iconic and transformative coach is many loyal Bears’ main connection to the school, and his unceremonious firing has clearly strained those bonds.
“It makes it very difficult now for us to want to support and represent the school we all loved,” said Cassandra Molinari, a senior on last year’s softball team. “Whenever you mentioned St. Joe’s, you immediately thought of Frank Carbone, and now that he’s not there, it’ll never be the same.”
More than 1,000 students and alumni have formed a Facebook group, “We Support & Love Frank Carbone” and flooded Hill and school president Dr. Jack Calareso with e-mails voicing their outrage and demanding Carbone’s return.
“He has made such drastic and amazing changes to that program and had a beautiful facility built and they fire him,” said Kristin Healy Haufmann, a 2006 graduate who was coached by Carbone in three sports. “I mean his name is on the court!”
Comedian Chris Distefano, a former men’s hoops standout and star of MTV’s Guy Code, said: “I think it’s a travesty and he was always the best when I was there. Think people who fired him should realize that you want an AD who makes their job their life.”
In an e-mail response to a post from former softball player Christina Quintana the Facebook page, Calareso said he could not discus the details of a personal assessment that took place over the last year, but it was determined that moving the athletics program to full Division III activity and into the Skyline conference required new leadership. He said he has heard the alumni’s concerns and is working on a resolution to the issue. Calareso, who took over in July 2014, is he first non-religious leader of the Catholic college since its founding in 1916.
The outpouring of support does appears to have the school rethinking it decision to remove Carbone from a role with the school all together. McAleer Decatur said that Calareso has attempted to reach out to Carbone to talk. No discussions have yet taken place and she said no decision can be made on whether or not Carbrone will return in a different capacity until the two talk.
Carbone’s former players are optimistic he will return.
“I hope that after the president of St. Joseph’s sees how many lives Frank has touched and impacted, he will realize that he made a mistake,” said former basketball player Stephanie Quick. “So I’m very hopeful that Frank will be brought back.”