Haverford Hockey Club Fires Brian Cleary
The coach won three-straight Flyers Cups in nine years as coach of the Fords.
It’s happened again. This time to the ice hockey coach. Long-time Haverford High School coaches seem to have a penchant lately of being dismissed over surveys and undisclosed reasons.
The latest victim is Brian Cleary, who finished his ninth season of coaching the varsity for the Haverford Ice Hockey Club and is not having his contract renewed for next year after his first sub-.500 season, when the Fords closed out 2011 with a 7-10-3 finish.
In Cleary’s nine seasons, he guided the Fords to three-straight Class AA Flyers Cup championships, was a three-time state runner-up, two-time Central League champion and his teams participated in eight Flyers Cup Tournaments in the nine seasons he was there.
However the Haverford Ice Hockey Club is not directly affiliated to Haverford High School, though the school does recognize the players as varsity athletes and awards the players with Haverford High School varsity letters.
But there is one strong, glaring connection between what happened to Cleary, and the firing of long-time boys’ soccer coach Jorge Severini and long-tenured boys’ basketball coach Terry McNichol—they all seem to be the victims of the coaching surveys that the Haverford School District posted, and recently took down from the official website.
Cleary said he received a phone call this past Friday around noon from Jim McGlade, the director of hockey operations for the club, who told him that Clearly did not get a good review from surveys filled out by parents and the club wanted to go into a different direction.
The Haverford Ice Hockey Club had no response to questions about Cleary.
“This came completely out of the blue; the biggest problem I have with it is they used parent evaluations again,” Cleary said. “This has nothing to do with the high school, but everything to do with the coaching surveys they put out, which I understand the club used in evaluating me. What’s bothering me is that I never got a chance to respond. I was told that I yelled too much and I berated their children.”
Cleary pointed out that his coaching style hasn’t changed in 20-plus years of coaching. He wondered why all of a sudden parents had a problem with his approach. He admits that he is hard on his players, and that he could be loud.
“But 90 percent of the time, it is instructional and it usually reiterates what’s going on at practice,” said Cleary, a 1982 Haverford graduate who played for the Fords’ ice hockey team. “This shows no professionalism in my opinion. I was told these parent surveys came in and I didn’t get a good review.
“What I think I experienced, in relation to the other coaches there, is that kids are way too pampered today and too many of their parents are cowards. There were parents that had agendas with me, but it’s funny no one said anything to my face. They hid behind a computer screen. In other areas, it’s dealt with differently. You sit down and have a face-to-face and talk it out. ”
On Friday, after getting word from McGlade, Cleary went to clear out his office at the Skatium one last time. He grabbed the various trophies he helped his team win, including a Coach of the Year trophy, and felt as if the experience was surreal as he gathered his things.
He left with a message it seems other future coaches at Haverford High School may want to take into consideration:
“This has more to do with overprotective parents and an administration worrying more about the opinions of the disgruntled few than the majority of the positives; you’re never going to make everyone happy,” Cleary said. “They are appeasing the parents for the sake of appeasing the parents. It’s my opinion that a growing number of parents have become very unrealistic in their evaluation of their own child’s ability. Administrations and school boards don’t want to deal with it, so they fire the coach and they hope it goes away. I thought I’d get more respect and consideration for all the time and effort I put in. A phone call on Friday afternoon is all I got. That's as classless at it gets.”