An estimated 75 supporters of fired Williamsville South basketball coach Al Monaco attended tonight's Williamsville Board of Education meeting despite knowing they would likely not be able to speak.
Williamsville Central School District Superintendent Scott Martzloff made the following statement at the beginning of the session, which was a special meeting called to elect a new board member:
"I know we have a number of community members here who are interested in the recent personnel decision to not reappoint a coach. That decision was reached after a six-month-long investigation, talking to many different administrators, teachers, parents, community members, students -- also there was a separate investigation with the Amherst Police Department. I am not going to comment on this investigation or this action of not reappointing this coach any further this evening. But I did want to address it in that way."
Monaco's supporters sat quietly during the special meeting called to elect a new board member, through six candidates' speeches and during the question and answer period. Among the Monaco supporters in attendance were current and former coaches (most of them in boys basketball), current and former officials and current and former South basketball players. Also in attendance were Monaco's wife, Mary, as well as their youngest of four sons, 16-year-old Matt.
One former player of Monaco's traveled from Syracuse in an attempt to be heard. Tim Creahan, a 1998 South graduate wrote a letter supporting Monaco to the board in advance of his attendance, hopeful of having a chance to speak but knowing that might not happen. He did speak individually -- as did many other Monaco supporters -- with the superintendent following the meeting.
"For the amount of time that he put in to volunteer and coach me and make me a better player and person, I felt like the least I could do was make a four-hour trip to support him," said Creahan, who played three years of baseball and three years of basketball for Monaco.
Among former players in attendance was 2011 South graduate Joe Licata, a record-setting football and basketball player at South who is now the backup quarterback as a freshman at the University at Buffalo.
"As a player and person, it is always great to have someone that believes in you," said Licata, who introduced himself to the superintendent following the meeting. "My dad, my mom and my three sisters have always believed in me for 19 years. I met coach Monaco in fifth grade, he has believed in me since fifth grade. He's supported me since then. I'll always love Coach Monaco. He's done a lot of great things for me."
Among the many veteran officials present was Benji Bluman, a Williamsville resident.
"I'm here to show support and make sure the right thing gets done for this whole situation," he said. "That's why there are a lot of coaches here, and former players who have come out of the woodwork to support him. Some of these guys that I can see walking around here came off the bench, might not have ever started."
The only reaction from coaches during the meeting, and it was only slightly above a murmur, was during one candidate's speech.
The candidate lauded the Williamsville school district by wondering aloud why anyone would discuss sending their child to a private school like Canisius or St. Joe's.
Some coaches couldn't resist a smile and a glance as they looked over at one of their colleagues -- the coach of a private school.
Most supporters of Monaco stayed for the duration of the meeting. When the first round of voting occurred, there were four votes for the winner, one short of a majority. That led to an extended question-and-answer period, and then to another vote.
As the votes were counted, you could sense many in the room rooting for there to be a candidate with five (so was I). When the votes it the magic number, there were more than a few smiles.
After the meeting, some more supporters -- former players of Monaco -- showed up straight from a local softball game in their shorts and spikes.