Sullivan: As Chris Durr’s coaching career ends at Will East, he’s still without any answers

Sullivan: As Chris Durr’s teaching profession ends at Will East, he’s nonetheless with none solutions

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John Comerford can nonetheless image the scene. It was the center of June 2019, in a driving rainstorm, when the Williamsville East softball group arrived house from Glens Falls after changing into the primary ladies group in class historical past to win a state championship.

“I used to be there that evening when the bus got here house with these younger girls,” Comerford recalled. “Our entire neighborhood was there ready for them. It was like that scene from ‘Hoosiers’, the place they’re following the bus by means of the corn fields.

“That’s what we should always bear in mind and be pleased about.”

Chris Durr, who coached that group, remembers it fondly. Will probably be his final probability to take the Flames on a state championship run. Early this month, Durr determined to not reapply for the Will East head softball job he had held with distinction for a decade.

Final fall, the Williamsville Board of Training had determined to not reappoint Durr as coach of the East ladies soccer group, a place he had held since 1995. The board supplied no rationalization for turning down the advice of three district directors – which included total district athletic director Steve Mucica and the East AD, Nicholas Suchyna.

Durr, who teaches bodily schooling at East, was by no means given a cause for his soccer dismissal. He didn’t attend the varsity board assembly in September, when a variety of dad and mom and gamers vented their anger and disappointment to a board that rejected Durr, 4-0, with 4 members abstaining and one absent.

“I can’t and can’t coach below the present situations,” Durr stated in his first public feedback concerning the board’s resolution. “Not when evaluations don’t matter, when the opinions of the three people who observe you each day, your three speedy supervisors, don’t matter.

“All three really helpful me to teach,” Durr stated. “They have been as blindsided by this as I used to be. Nobody went to them and stated, ‘We have to sit down with Coach Durr as a result of there was a difficulty final season.’ And that’s how issues needs to be dealt with.

“If you wish to hearth me, at the least give me a cause, so I can defend myself. I don’t perceive how a college board is in command of school-level choices, hiring and firing folks. There’s so much there, two years faraway from a state championship at 27-0.”

Teresa Leatherbarrow, the board president, didn’t touch upon the Durr resolution on the time, saying it was in opposition to coverage to debate personnel issues. Superintendent Darren Brown-Corridor additionally declined remark, as did different board members.

Leatherbarrow, Brown-Corridor and 5 board members declined remark when reached out for remark this month on Durr’s resolution to not apply for the softball job. The district athletic administrators have been additionally instructed to not discuss Durr.

Durr and the Will East softball group have a good time their state championship (Jenna Harner/Minus Better)

Thus ends one of the achieved highschool teaching careers in Williamsville East historical past. Durr started teaching there 29 years in the past, one yr after graduating from Canisius Faculty. He started as the ladies varsity tennis and junior varsity basketball coach earlier than taking up as ladies head soccer coach.

Throughout one five-year stretch, Durr served as head coach for 3 ladies’ varsity sports activities on the similar time: soccer, basketball and softball. His groups gained 29 division and 21 sectional title among the many three sports activities. These groups gained greater than 800 video games and despatched 15 athletes on to careers on the Division I stage.

A month in the past, for those who had requested somebody concerned with highschool sports activities who was essentially the most revered and achieved ladies coach in Western New York, they could have answered, “Chris Durr.”

Durr stays the Part VI chairman for women basketball and soccer. Late final yr, he was chosen for the New York State highschool ladies soccer Corridor of Fame as a coach/contributor, three months after the board took his soccer job away.

He stated he would commerce that honor if he might proceed teaching. The rationale for his removing as soccer coach stays a thriller.

The one public blot on Durr’s document got here in the course of the 2019 soccer season, when the district canceled the varsity season in mid-September after 13 gamers violated the varsity’s athletic code of conduct. There was alcohol concerned and group pranks — a so-called scavenger hunt — that have been circulated on social media.

Durr, who has been the deputy recreation director for the City of Clarence since 1998, had no advance information of the pranks. He stated he discovered way back to not socialize along with his gamers and he has no social media presence. He additionally had no say within the five-week suspensions, which have been a district mandate.

Some dad and mom felt Durr ought to have known as up his junior varsity gamers to complete the 2019 soccer season, however he felt that may have been unfair, and in some instances unsafe, for the youthful gamers.

The next season, Durr allowed his gamers to select captains for the primary time. There was apparently resentment amongst a handful of fogeys concerning the alternative of captains, and a sense that in some instances he didn’t advocate sufficient for sure gamers.

“Shortly earlier than the board made its resolution, there have been rumblings by dad and mom,” stated Comerford, who had a daughter on the JV group. “It handled enjoying time, with youngsters not getting sure accolades, corresponding to all-Western New York.

“Personally, I felt these issues to be trivial,” stated Comerford, a lawyer who makes a speciality of mesothelioma instances. “Out of the blue, the board will get concerned. What actually issues me is there’s a security internet to ensure we’ve got good coaches, and it was circumvented. It’s very troubling to me.”

It was actually troubling for Durr to know his judgment was being questioned. He has all the time prided himself on being knowledgeable. He started umpiring softball and Little League when he was 16. He’s an energetic official in highschool sports activities immediately. Logic has all the time been a paramount concern.

“My father labored for Tops for 45 years,” Durr stated. “He began as a man pushing carts and labored his solution to the higher echelon. So professionalism and judgment and treating folks with respect had all the time been instilled in me by my dad and mom.

“I all the time felt the sector was an extension of the classroom,” he stated. “It’s like one other class, and if I wouldn’t do it within the classroom I wouldn’t do it on the sector. Once I was youthful I used to be a yeller, I used to be fired up. As you age, you begin to settle down just a little bit. Over time, I’ve discovered so much concerning the relationships with youngsters and oldsters and people sorts of issues.”

Durr stated he’s gone by means of the basic levels of grief for the reason that board’s resolution. It began with anger and disbelief, and the priority about his good title and fame. He thought of authorized motion, however what would that accomplish? How would that assist the ladies who’re nonetheless within the soccer program?

He stated folks within the know will perceive that he didn’t do something sinister. In any other case, he wouldn’t nonetheless be instructing. However missing any rationalization, an outsider would possibly marvel if Durr did one thing monstrous to justify knocking him out of his teaching job after almost three a long time of principled service.

“4 of my daughters performed varied sports activities with him,” stated John Rumschik. “Not solely was he a wonderful coach, he was any individual you had confidence and belief in to be instructing and dealing along with your youngsters. He taught them life classes, too.

“I’m involved about coaches immediately, good coaches, who gained’t need to coach due to issues like this,” Rumschik stated. “And who will get damage? The youngsters.”

Marissa Birzon was one of many youngsters who provides Durr credit score for her success on the sector. Birzon was a two-time Western New York soccer participant of the yr who left Williamsville East as the varsity’s profession scoring chief. She not too long ago graduated from Ohio State, the place she performed school soccer and was all-academic Large Ten 4 instances.

“On the finish of the day, he all the time cared concerning the ladies on his group and who we performed in opposition to,” Birzon stated. “He all the time stated even when we gained 7-0, it wasn’t concerning the rating, or how badly you may need crushed a group. It was about getting different folks onto the sector and everybody having a superb expertise.”

Durr works with Birzon on the sector throughout her enjoying days.

Birzon stated she has spoken to different former gamers concerning the Durr case and nobody is aware of why he misplaced his job as soccer coach. She stated he was nothing however supportive throughout her six years in his program and by no means mistreated any participant.

“So, when you could not have a solution why, he can go away figuring out he’s had an impression on so many individuals,” she stated,” and that everybody in the neighborhood needs the most effective for him. That speaks for itself.”

Al Day, the previous Williamsville East AD, was surprised when Durr known as to inform him he’d misplaced his teaching job. Day employed Durr in 1993 when he was contemporary out of school. He felt Durr was mature past his years, a really perfect candidate to teach younger folks.

“I might see his potential,” Day stated. “It was staggering. I knew his dad and mom and it’s correct parenting when a man is introduced as much as be what Chris was early on.”

Day, who’s retired and spends his winters in Florida, was additionally outraged to know {that a} board had seemingly allowed a small group of disgruntled dad and mom to sway them.

He was reminded of an identical case from a decade in the past, when long-time Williamsville South boys basketball coach Al Monaco misplaced his job after 24 years due to a mother or father’s grievance about enjoying time and supposed bullying.

“Once I was employed approach again within the early 70s, folks on the board have been actually statesmen,” Day stated. “They knew they have been there for policy-making procedures and to steer the district. Now it’s like individuals are on Board of Training as a result of they’ve an axe to grind, or they need to be a quasi-administrator.

“It’s only a disgrace. {That a} district pretty much as good as Williamsville would dip into that class may be very disturbing.”

Comerford shares that disdain for the varsity board, which he says has devolved right into a “household and associates” program. He stated he’d prefer to see a return to the statesmanlike board that Al Day recollects from the previous.

“Williamsville is a giant faculty system,” Comerford stated. “I’m trying to run three folks for the board — one from Will North, one from Will South and one from Will East. I need to put collectively what I name a Holy Trinity of recent blood for the Williamsville faculty system that places youngsters first, as a result of what I’ve witnessed right here is simply the other.

“You recognize what speaks volumes to me? No matter they’ve on Chris is rank hypothesis. It’s simply not right. My intestine as a trial lawyer tells me, the playing cards they’re holding about what he did, it if was so unhealthy that he’s banned for all times from teaching, why was it such a good vote. Why did 4 folks abstain?”

Durr has by no means obtained a solution. Not one phrase from anybody within the district. He was on the golf course when he acquired phrase that the board wasn’t going to reappoint him. He stated his sister advised him it might be a blessing, that not teaching would take away one of many greatest stressors in his life.

“Gil Licata (the principal and long-time coach at Starpoint) gave me some nice recommendation,” Durr stated. “He known as me instantly and advised me to take the excessive highway. So I used to be skilled throughout this complete course of. He stated, ‘Let different folks battle your battles for you. Those who know you, know you. Gamers which have had you, know you.’”

The gamers got here out in help when Durr misplaced his teaching job final fall, simply earlier than the soccer season started. He stated it was outstanding how they dealt with it in public. The Will East ladies finally suffered an enormous upset loss within the sectionals.

“Sure, I misplaced the flexibility to teach them,” he stated. “Nevertheless it was actually the children who have been paying the value. They misplaced their season in 2019, when lots of them have been sophomores. Then come again and there’s a shortened season due to the pandemic. Then they acquired it caught to them once more.

“They nonetheless don’t perceive. Dad and mom don’t perceive. I believe it truly is loopy that I do not know what I did. Would they approve me for softball? I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Durr figured it wasn’t definitely worth the grief. He didn’t put his title in. It’s laborious to think about the board that felt he wasn’t worthy of teaching soccer would flip and approve him for softball. At 52, he’ll most likely coach once more. Nevertheless it’s not more likely to be in Williamsville.

Subsequent month, there might be a brand new softball coach for Williamsville East, which continues to be technically the reigning state champion. The state playoffs weren’t held the final two years due to the pandemic.

So, the Flames will defend their title with out him. Durr’s supporters are left to marvel why extra wasn’t completed to defend him.

Jerry Sullivan is an award-winning journalist who joined the Minus Better group in 2020 after three a long time as a sports activities columnist at The Buffalo Information. See extra of his work right here.