A final conversation with Jim Mancuso

A final conversation with Jim Mancuso

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A final conversation with Jim Mancuso

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Despite all of the program's success on the ice in the last five seasons, head coach Jim Mancuso was not retained by Scarsdale.

Despite all of the program’s success on the ice in the last five seasons, head coach Jim Mancuso was not retained by Scarsdale.

I don’t get this one.

How do you spend any time around Jim Mancuso and fail to recognize that he dedicated 25 years to building a reputable hockey program, that he consistently held athletes to a higher standard, that he now has a small army of supporters in spite of the old-school approach. I’m thinking Scarsdale athletic director Ray Pappalardi made a regrettable mistake in letting him go. 

Citing a lack of communication as the primary issue was dishonest at best.

And now the Raiders have a divide in the locker room because the move was motivated by parental complaints. Scarsdale is left with players who are going to miss the passion of Mancuso and players who believe they have a better chance to be named all-league with him gone.

Sad.

Related: Former Scarsdale coaches speak out after firings

Here is a writeup from a Tuesday conversation with Mancuso:

It’s standard procedure for coaches to conduct a post mortem with school officials after each season. According to Mancuso, no issues were raised when he met with Pappalardi earlier this year.

They met again last week.

“I was terminated on Tuesday, met a new grandson on Wednesday and had a birthday on Thursday,” Mancuso said. “It was a pretty short conversation (with Pappalardi), ‘We’re not going to bring you back.’ I was told some people had complained about a lack of communication.”

The news circulated quickly, and the 67-year-old who makes a living in sales began receiving phone calls, emails and text messages from players and parents he’s come into contact with over 25 years.

“I told them, ‘Listen, I was in the paper, but my name wasn’t in the obituaries,’ ” said Mancuso, who’s long ranked among the wittiest coaches in Section 1. “I was on a different page. The outpouring of support has been tremendous. I have some emails that would make you cry.”

Mancuso served as an assistant for one season before taking over and slowly built the program. The Raiders eventually began to compete with traditional powers like Mamaroneck and Suffern, winning Section 1 championships in 2014 and 2015.

Related: Four varsity coaches out at Scarsdale

Over the last five years, Scarsdale went 82-33-3.

The school also decided last October to expand the program, added a junior varsity team. It’s a move that required a fair amount of scrambling.

“I know that I like to do things my way,” Mancuso said. “I also do some things other people’s way. I always try to do things the right way. That was the goal. I was fair to everybody, whether he was the world’s leading scorer of some kid on the fifth line. We all follow the same standards and guidelines, otherwise there is chaos.”

He will miss the players who competed and eventually and the parents who volunteered to fundraise and support the program.

Mancuso is a throwback. He is loud when there’s a breakdown, demanding when the effort slips and passionate about playing the game the right way. According to parents who did not want to be named because their sons are still part of the program, the only controversy this season came after the all-league picks were made.

At least one family responded by complaining to school officials about Mancuso.

“I’m not throwing anyone under the bus,” Mancuso said. “You win with class. You lose with class and you hold your head up.”

There have been numerous pleas to school officials to reconsider the move to dismiss Mancuso, and he would likely come back if asked.

“It’s not an easy decision, but I probably would,” he said. “I have this ideal, I like to keep things black and white. Trouble lies in the gray areas. If we could get to where there’s a mutual benefit for everyone involved, I think I would go back.”

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