By Jerry Del Priore
It seems as if an injustice has occurred at St. Joseph’s College in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, according to countless angry students and alumni, as the school fired its athletic director Frank Carbone Tuesday.
Upset and taking aback by the news, a groundswell of support from current students and alumni came together to form a Facebook group – with over 1100 current members – to help Carbone get reinstated.
They even started hashtags #BringBackFrank, #BearWitnessToTheShame, #FPCisSJC and #SackJack (to oust St. Joseph’s College President Jack Calareso), as way to help support the beloved Carbone even further.
Furthermore, they started hard copy and online petitions to spur their efforts to greater lengths.
An email to students from Assistant Vice President and Senior Director of Athletics Shantey Hill Tuesday informed them of Carbone’s dismissal. In addition, Hill announced his replacement, Alex Winnicker–Associate Director of Athletics at SJC, hired in July to fill the newly created position–will step in and serve as the interim Alethic Director.
In an official statement from the school, St. Joseph’s said the reason for his termination was due to its decision to usher its athletics program in a different direction.
“After a lengthy and thorough assessment process, St. Joseph’s College determined the need for new leadership in Brooklyn athletics,” the statement read. “The decision to replace Mr. Frank Carbone as Athletics Director was not an easy one, and in no way diminishes the significant contributions he made to the college and its athletic programs in Brooklyn over the past 18 years.
SJC went on to credit Carbone for his positive influence on the program, and its designs to build on its past success going forward.
“While the College has come a long way over the past few years with the creation of The Hill Center and admission into the Skyline Conference, we see this as only a step toward continued growth, development and excellence,” the statement added. “In the coming years, we plan to increase opportunities for our student-athletes by adding athletic programs, improving our current programs and continuing to expand our facilities as we strive for excellence and greater success for the college.”
Carbone, 47, stepped down as coach of the women’s softball and basketball teams last month in order to concrete on his duties as Athletic Director, according to SJCBears.com. But it has many students and alumni speculating that he could have been a lame duck all along,
“I must say that I vehemently disagree with the decision and steps taken to fire Frank, as well as the timing of it,” a former student-athlete – who wished to remain anonymous – close to situation said. “That was only about a month ago. Frank Carbone didn’t have the chance to solely be an athletic director. With the new position created around him, it was clear that the pressure was on, and that he didn’t stand a chance against an administration that had its mind made up from months ago. The writing was on the wall, and that’s what I am most disgusted with.”
One of the Facebook group members, Stephanie Quick, a former Bears basketball player for four years, extoled the virtues of Carbone and his importance to the program during his long stint at the college.
“Frank taught us more than just the game he coached,” Quick, a 2103 graduate, explained. “He made SJC athletics a whole where every team supported one another. He made us a family. He gave his entire life to making SJC athletics to what it is now. He has put in more time than anyone could ever imagine. It’s a disgrace that he was fired.”
Former student-athlete alumni and celebrity Chris Distefano even spoke out on social media, remembering Carbone as a caring and dedicated athletic director and coach, offering his support to help him get rehired.
“Athletic Director Frank Carbone was fired from St. Joseph’s in Brooklyn yesterday,” Distefano, a comedian and current cast member on MTV2’s popular show Guy Code and MTV’s Girl Code, wrote on Instagram Wednesday.
“This man was like a second dad to me during my basketball career there. If you know him, you know what I mean. Let’s help him get reinstated. It just wasn’t his job. It was his life. That’s (the) type of man you want running your athletic program.”
Carbone couldn’t be reached for comment since he handed over his cell phone to the school, and an alternate number wasn’t available at the time, according to several sources.
The Greenpoint, Brooklyn, native amassed a 271-246 as the basketball coach, highlighted by an NCAA Division III Tournament appearance in 2012. It was the first, and only, NCAA tournament berth in any sport in SJC Brooklyn history.
Selected as the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National Basketball Coach of the Year in 2003, Carbone led the Lady Bears to nine National Championship appearances and six Hudson Valley Conference championships, claiming the title in two of the last three seasons. He capped off last season with the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (HVIAC) Co-Coach of the Year honor.
To honor Carbone’s overall hoops contributions at the college, the Bears’ home basketball court was named after him last December, when the state-of-the art Hill Center was opened.
He also started the softball program at St. Joseph’s in 2002, helping it compile a 620 record (287-175-3) over 14 seasons, producing winning records in all but two seasons. The three-time Association of Division III Independents (AD3I) Coach of the Year led the Lady Bears to eight USCAA National Championships, taking home a program-best third-place finish in 2010 while capturing nine Hudson Valley Conference titles.