Tom Rotanz, who has led the Shoreham-Wading River boys lacrosse team to five Long Island championships in 19 years as coach, will not return for the upcoming season.
The decision not to renew his contract was announced at a school board meeting on Tuesday night. No reason was given, and the announcement came as a surprise to many at the meeting, including Rotanz.
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"I was taken out of the blue here," Rotanz said. "I was under the impression that everything was OK."
Rotanz, 54, said he received an outpouring of support from players, coaches and community members. He has coached the team to three state titles and 10 Suffolk championships.
District superintendent Steven Cohen sent a letter to the families and team members on Thursday. In the letter, which was obtained by Newsday, Cohen said the decision was his.
"It was well understood that my decision not to recommend Mr. Rotanz as lacrosse coach would be challenged by his supporters," Cohen wrote. "And while I can say that playing time and the treatment of particular individuals played no part in my decision, fairness and the law preclude public discussion of employee performance and evaluation."
Rotanz, who is a math teacher at Rocky Point High School, which is in a different school district, said he and Cohen met two weeks ago and that Cohen asked Rotanz to coach one more season and then retire. Rotanz said he told Cohen he did not want to retire. Rotanz said he left the meeting thinking he would remain the coach.
In the letter, Cohen said the decision "is deemed by many in the SWR lacrosse family to be unfair, unwarranted, or driven by personal bias, and your frustration for the lack of explanation over how this decision was made is certainly understood."
Cohen did not return calls for additional comment.
"I just wish we could come to a happy medium where everybody could come together," Rotanz said.