Upon learning he was replaced at St. Joseph, New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame basketball coach Dave Turco said he was disappointed in the high school administration for its handling of the situation.
“I was highly disappointed with how this all went down,” Turco said. “I believe after all I did for the school that they could (have) handled this situation with a lot more class. We preach the St. Joe’s way of doing things all the time but the meaning of that seems to be changing when it comes to athletics.”
Mike Thompson, a 1982 St. Joseph graduate who previously served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, was introduced as Turco’s successor on Thursday during a team meeting. He is the school’s third significant athletics department hire in the past five months.
Turco said no administrators from the school told him he would not be returning for a 13th season as St. Joseph’s head coach.
“To have to hear about being replaced from anybody but the people in charge at the school was disheartening,” Turco said.
School officials, citing their practice of not discussing personnel matters in public, declined Thursday to comment on Turco’s status, other than to express their sincere appreciation for his service.
However, they issued a prepared statement on Friday morning in response to Turco’s remarks.
“We are grateful to Coach Turco for his many contributions to Saint Joe’s and for leading the basketball team for 12 successful seasons,” the statement read. “It is the policy of Saint Joseph High School to not comment on personnel matters. To the extent Coach Turco represents that no Saint Joseph representative had a discussion with him, that much is true. However, our incoming athletic directors made repeated attempts during the past three months to meet with Coach Turco to discuss the basketball program. Though several meetings were scheduled, Coach Turco did not attend.”
Turco said, “If a date and time for a meeting with the St. Joseph athletic department had ever been determined and communicated to me I would have done everything in my power to attend. This doesn’t only affect me and my family but it affects my players and their families as well.”
Reaction to Turco not being rehired at St. Joseph has been significant on social media with former St. Joseph stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Wade Baldwin, both first-round NBA Draft picks, being among the most prominent alums to opine.
Turco said he was conducting business as usual through the days leading up to Thompson’s hiring.
“If they believe that somehow by divine intervention that I was aware (Thompson was going to be named head coach), up to this last week there were clearly signs that it was not true,” Turco said of the St. Joseph administration. “I was still communicating with the players, informing them about the (fall) league game on Sunday and workouts off campus available with a trainer if interested. The entire school has always been consumed with what the basketball program was doing that there is no possible way they weren’t aware I was still performing my coaching duties, which would seem odd if I was informed I wasn’t coming back.”
Although St. Joseph is not required to post any coaching positions publicly, Turco said he believed the fact that “such a high profile job as this one” was not posted “makes it seem like a hush-hush backdoor deal is being made.”
Referring to new athletics director Mike Murray and assistant athletics director Michael O’Boyle, who recently succeeded Jerry Smith, Turco said he “still needed to speak to the two new ADs to see exactly what (was) their vision and how hands on they were going to be with my program.
“If indeed I felt in any way that I would be unable to work with them moving forward like I did in the past with Mr. Smith, then I would hold a meeting with my players and (their) families and inform them that I would not be able to continue what we have built together and I would be better off concentrating on my two children and getting an opportunity to watch them play. But it never made it to that stage. They (the school administration) decided to move on from me.
“I just wish it was communicated clearly so that perhaps I could (have) still had time to apply for another position and continue coaching the game I love.”
“I would like to thank all of my former coaches and players for their kind words of support,” Turco said. “We have created a tightknit basketball family and I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with you all. It’s been a great ride. I will move forward in a private manner on this subject.”