By John Torenli
Canarsie head football coach Mike Camardese orchestrated one of the most impressive turnarounds in recent PSAL history last season, leading the Chiefs to a 7-2 record and into the city playoffs following a 2-7 finish in 2010.
The 56-year-old Brooklyn native currently has his hands full with another reclamation project: restoring his reputation as one of the top coaches and mentors in the city after reportedly receiving a "U" (for unsatisfactory) rating from school administrators.
Camardese, who has spent the past three decades building one of the winningest programs in the five boroughs as well as developing several NFL players, received notice of his termination on May 7, but the Department of Education (DOE) has yet to officially confirm his dismissal. Or deny it.
“We cannot comment on a teacher's personnel record," DOE spokesperson Margie Feinberg said in a statement regarding the ongoing dispute. "The campus has strong PSAL programs for students who attend schools there.”
“They’re taking something away from me I’ve done every day for the last 30 years,” Camardese told the New York Post last week while revealing that he was appealing the "U" rating via the United Federation of Teachers. “They have no respect for what me and my staff have done. We’ve gotten more kids into college than they ever will.”
Fort Hamilton head football coach Daniel Perez was adamant in his support of Camardese on Wednesday. Speaking to the Eagle from his office at the Bay Ridge school, Perez, a former player and assistant coach with the Tigers before assuming head coaching duties and leading the Fort to the PSAL title in 2010, summed up the apparent ousting of Camardese in two words: "It's ridiculous."
That sentiment has been shared by Sheepshead Bay coach Fred Snyder and Tottenville's Jim Munson in recent published interviews, but the process of restoring Camardese to his post could take nearly eight months, leaving the Chiefs without their leader heading into next season. The Chiefs were just getting into spring practice when the sage coach received the bad news.
“He was coaching when I was a player," recalled Perez, who also worked alongside Camardese during the 2011 Boomer Esiason All-City Game on Long Island. "Back in the day, we always knew when you played Canarsie, it was one of the best teams in the city. They went to like four championships."
Sadly, Camardese lost each of those title tilts, the last coming in 2007 against Munson's Pirates at Midwood Field. Currently listed as a dean and retired physical education teacher at the school, which has been broken up into several smaller campus sites in recent years, Camardese reportedly only receives pay during the football season.
According to Perez, the PSAL, Canarsie and the DOE will ultimately be the losers if Camardese isn't retained in some capacity.
"They’re losing a real good man and a heck of a teacher," Perez noted. "He’s kept the program where it’s been. He’s been a critical part of that.”
Camardese has remained mum on the topic since speaking out last week, but according to Perez, the local coaching icon is far from accepting defeat.
“He’s fighting and trying to stay on with his UFT rep," Perez noted. "A couple of years ago when they broke down the school and split the campus he was able to keep together the program. I don’t know what the future holds for Canarsie football without coach Camardese. In other local high school sports news, the junior varsity softball team at Brooklyn's Bishop Kearney High School completed an undefeated run through the season with a 12-7 victory over borough rival Bishop Ford in the JV Diocesan Championship Game on Wednesday.
Team captain Emily Hiltunen was the winning pitcher and delivered a pair of hits for the Tigers, who were playing without starter Christine Heyer, who had shoulder surgery earlier this month.
Nicolette Conti also delivered two big hits for Kearney, which held on for the victory thanks in large part to the solid infield defense provided by Darian Raccuglia, Taylor Iannicelli and Taylor Tobin. Tina D'Angelo provided what proved to be the winning run with a key hit in the sixth inning, breaking the game open for the Tigers.