Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Loudis out at Mechanicville: behind his back, school board declines to renew veteran hoop coach’s appointment

Mechanicville boys varsity basketball coach Joe Loudis applauds his team as they receive shirts and jackets for beating Friends Academy Friday, March 14, 2008, to win the Class C state semifinal in Glens Falls. (Photo by Ed Burke - The Saratogian).

MECHANICVILLE — The reappointment of high school coaches on a year-to-year basis is but a mere formality to most Boards of Education around New York State.

Not so in Joe Loudis’ case.

The 68-year-old member of the New York State basketball Hall of Fame, known for his legendary 3-2 zone and his 428 victories in multiple stints at Cohoes and Mechanicville High Schools, was all set to return to the court in 2010 after a one-year leave of absence due to medical issues.

In February 2008, Loudis was diagnosed with bladder cancer just before he guided his Mechanicville team to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C championship game. He’s also had heart surgery, which forced him to sit out the 2004-05 season, and double knee replacements that have slowed him down over the years.

Yet, in a written agreement with the school board, Loudis agreed to rest during the 2009-10 season and if everything had checked out health-wise, he would come back to coach in 2010.

Loudis was feeling better and was ready to reassume his role as boys varsity basketball head coach, but in a meeting on June 17, the board did not reappoint him, as per the written agreement. Instead, interim head coach Rian Richardson will begin his second year as Mechanicville’s head coach this November.

“Three weeks ago, I got news that the Mechanicville School Board did not reappoint me as head coach,” Loudis said by telephone Tuesday night. “It came out of the clear blue sky. They didn’t give me any reason or anything. Thursday night, they appointed someone else.”

Dr. Michael McCarthy, Superintendent of Schools at Mechanicville, confirmed that Loudis had not been reappointed during the July 1 Board of Education meeting and that Richardson had been appointed in his place. McCarthy, however, could not give any further details on a personnel matter and said that the board minutes would be posted to the school website (www.mechanicville.org) sometime Thursday or Friday morning.

“They (the school board) asked me to apply for the job,” Richardson said. “It’s a tough situation because coach and I go way back. I played for him in '93 and '94. It’s a sensitive situation.”

Loudis still has received no word from Board of Education President Joseph Waldron, Athletic Director Kevin Collins or Richardson himself.

“I didn’t call him,” Loudis said of Richardson. “He should have called me.”

"I don’t know the right words to use…I certainly wasn’t trying to steal his job," Richardson said. "They asked me to apply and I did."

Richardson, who played at Mechanicville from 1993 to 1996 and currently teaches elementary physical education in the South Colonie School District, was “like a son” to Loudis. The all-time leading scorer in Mechanicville history, Richardson finished his career with 1,217 points for the Red Raiders.

“I don’t think they’ll do anything,” said Loudis when asked if he’s expecting an explanation or an apology from the school board. “It was a low blow that they went and did this.”

He coached basketball at Cohoes from 1967-88 and later coached at Mechanicville from 1993-96 and from 2001-04 and 2005-08.

Loudis says that he has been more than loyal to the Mechanicville program over the years. Two years ago, when there was a budget crunch, he gave $1,000 out of his own pocket and also helped raised money by auctioning off baseballs signed by his former Little League World Series champion teammate, Billy Connors, a pitching coach and later a vice president of player personnel for the New York Yankees.

Loudis has continued to serve as a substitute teacher at Mechanicville after retiring as a business teacher at Cohoes, something he did for 35 years.

"I’m hoping to move forward," Richardson said. "I hope to be here a long time and build a legacy just like Joe did. Put it this way, if I win 20 games a year for the next 20 years, I still won’t have as many wins as him."

He is open to coaching somewhere during the 2010-11 season, but admits that will be easier said than done.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’d like to coach, but it’s kind of late now.”

Most of all, Loudis is simply upset that after his decades of service to the high school basketball scene in the Capital Region he has been shown the door in such an ugly fashion. Still, knowing Joe, this won’t be the end. Yet again, he’ll find a way to make a comeback.

“I have no idea why this happened,” Loudis said. “I’ve been very faithful and very loyal. I’ve had a very successful career and this is like a slap in the face.”

Loudis gives a speech as he is inducted into the Schenectady High School Hall of Fame. For more information on Loudis, click here.

(Updated 9:49 p.m. 7/6/10 after receiving phone call from McCarthy).
(Updated again at 10:39 p.m. 7/6/10 after receiving phone call from Richardson).

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