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How ironic that Paulla Solar is about to receive a merit award from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, honoring her character, win total (more than 300) and two state titles.
And yet Solar has accomplished something far more meritorious: She's lasted 13 seasons coaching high school basketball in the Republic of Stonington, where seldom is heard an encouraging word.
Solar, surely, has dealt with her share of loonies over the years. To this day, she's not allowed to employ male practice players because some softies from a few years ago protested. But her girls' program is Saturday in the park compared to the freak show of the other gender, now in search of what will be its sixth coach in the last 10 years.
That's right. The sixth coach in 10 years, now that Chad Barclay has been dismissed after his first season.
I'm not here to defend Barclay.
Nor to lay his dismissal at any one party, whether the administration, parents or players.
Rather, this is an appeal to the few, the proud who are brave enough to respond to the inquiry about becoming the new coach.
Don't do it.
At least without a licensed clinical social worker on speed dial.
Because you can't win there.
The program is venomous, poisonous, delirious. And in desperate need of a despot. That's right. If you take this job, you must request the fall of democracy. This is your show. There is no peanut gallery. There are rules blacker than 2 a.m. and whiter than the Republican Party. As former Yankee (and Norwich Navigators) manager Stump Merrill likes to say: "This is going to be a monologue, not a dialogue."
Forget John Wooden's line about the bench being a coach's greatest ally. In this case, it's the door. As in: You don't like it? Leave. There is no crying to mommy, daddy or the principal. The administration must understand that if you hire a new coach, you trust him (or her) to do the job. Six coaches in 10 years suggests there is a leadership issue that must be addressed.
The big picture is awash in uncoachable kids, unbearable parents and an unenlightened administration that has allowed this program to become a punchline. This is not about blame assessment. Because they all bear the responsibility.
It's straight from one of my favorite lines, written by Stephen Vincent Benet: "All of these you are, and each is partly you; and none of them is false, and none is wholly true."
Or as Rich Conover, who provided counsel to Barclay this season, said, "If a school is about to have its sixth coach in 10 years, the problem isn't with the coaches."
Conover has been coaching basketball at various levels for more than 50 years. Another of his observations: "Leading people takes time. It is a skill. It took me time. It takes every coach time. Giving someone one year makes no sense."
Again: There is no point in anybody taking this job without clearer ground rules. And an administration that will enforce them. It's not like this never happens at Stonington. Girls' soccer coach Dave Walsh met with his share of parental sniveling early last season. The snivelers got a clear message that their act would no longer be tolerated.
I'm just not sure why Chris Gallerani, Mike Reyes or Barclay never got the same support.
There is nothing in the Constitution decrying it an inalienable right that Stonington High School offers boys' basketball. And if things don't change, they would be better off suspending the program, rather than subjecting the next poor sap to such pervasive dysfunction.
You have met the enemy, Stonington.
Look in the mirror.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.