Longtime Garden City baseball coach Rich Smith, 74, has filed a federal age-discrimination lawsuit against the Garden City Union Free School District.
Smith’s contract as baseball coach was not renewed after the 2016 season. Smith was the varsity baseball coach for 44 years and a coach at the school since 1967.
He filed charges of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “on or about” July 29, 2016, according to the suit, and received his “Notice of a Right to Sue” from the commission on Feb. 16, 2017.
The suit also names Robert Feirson, Garden City Union Free School District superintendent, and Dawn Cerrone, the high school’s athletic director, as defendants. Monetary damages were not specified.
A hearing is scheduled for July 20 in Central Islip federal court.
Calls for comment to Feirson and Cerrone were not returned.
According to the suit, during the 2016 baseball season Cerrone removed all varsity ballplayers from their classrooms without parental consent and brought them to an auditorium where they were separated, had their cellphones taken away, and were given no opportunity to contact their parents. They were told to write a critique of their baseball coach — “write if you think he’s too mean, write if you think he’s too old, write if you think he makes it no fun.”
The suit also said the public release of the statement that “Coach Smith was not being renewed due to extreme and unusual circumstances” was false and harmful to his reputation.
“Garden City took away my love and passion for what I did for 50 years, and that was coaching Garden City baseball,” Smith said Tuesday from his home in Fort Myers, Florida. “Once I knew I was no longer going to be able to coach, I had no reason to stay in New York. It totally changed my life.”
Smith started coaching baseball at Garden City in 1967 and became the head coach in 1973. The former physical education teacher’s baseball record was 667-386-18, making him Long Island’s second-winningest coach behind Division’s Doug Robins’ 695. Smith led the Trojans to the state and Long Island Class B titles in 2000, when his team went 26-3.