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Samantha Prahalis calls Ward Melville decision 'crushing'

Ward Melville head coach Samantha Prahalis directs her

Ward Melville head coach Samantha Prahalis directs her players during a Suffolk girls basketball game against Commack on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Crushing.

That's the word Samantha Prahalis used to describe Ward Melville High School's decision not to bring her back to coach the girls basketball team this season.

Prahalis was a former standout player at Commack High School who played four years at Ohio State and was drafted sixth overall in the 2012 WNBA Draft before spending parts of three seasons in the league. She coached two seasons at Ward Melville, leading the team to the Suffolk Class AA semifinals last season. She also coached Lauren Hansen, Newsday’s All-Long Island player of the year, last season.

“It’s crushing because I know the bonds I created with these girls are real, and it’s just crushing,” Prahalis said in her first comments since the decision. “It’s crushing for me and these girls. It’s their senior years. They’re never going to get this back. I’m never going to get this back with them.”

The Three Village Central School District issued a statement on Aug. 9 announcing that Prahalis would not be reappointed.

“Coaching positions are annual appointments and, at this time, the individual was not reappointed as head coach of the Ward Melville High School girls basketball team for the upcoming year,” the Aug. 9 statement read. “As this is a matter of personnel, the district has no further comment.”

At the time, Prahalis said she would not comment on the decision until after an Aug. 21 board of education meeting. 

According to Gena Agostino, the mother of senior Jamie Agostino, six players urged the board to reappoint Prahalis. The district did not change its decision.

“While the district does not comment on matters of personnel, it is important to clarify that our coaches are appointed on an annual basis and that each individual is reviewed at the end of the year to determine if that professional agreement will continue for the following year,” the district said in a statement to Newsday. “The decision not to reappoint the individual in question was based on a number of factors, and the district stands behind that decision, as such no further discussion on the topic was necessary following the Aug. 21 board meeting.”

Prahalis, who said she plans on getting her degree in criminology from Ohio State in December via the university’s degree completion program, said she’ll always remember her time at Ward Melville.

“I love them, and I’ll love them forever,” she said. “I’ve been around the world and played basketball with a lot of people on a lot of different teams. But these girls impact me more than anything … You can strip me from being their coach, but what we created here is real. I’m just so thankful and grateful I had the time I did with them.”

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