CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- An online petition to reinstate Dave Fernandes as the head coach of the Horace Greeley High School varsity boys basketball team in Chappaqua has reached nearly 500 signatures.
In a meeting with with athletic director Pete Kuczma, Fernandes, a Dutchess resident, was told the school wanted to go in a “different direction.” Fernandes, the head custodian at the school, has coached the team since 1994 and started as a freshman coach in 1988.
Fernandes’ dismissal brought a wave of criticism from players, past and present. Rob Cross, who played basketball at Greeley from 2007-10, was among the most ardent supporters of Fernandes. Now a high school coach in Nashville, Cross spoke at a July concert in Chappaqua to encourage people to sign the petition and support Fernandes.
“He made that program,’’ Cross said. “He made it what it was,’’ Cross told the crowd at the concert.
“He always told me, 'When you make it big, I'll drive the car for you. I just want to be a part of what you're doing,'" Cross added in his speech at the concert. "He just always had my back."
Matt Townsend, a former Greeley standout who went on to a standout career at Yale University, also praised Fernandes. Townsend's mother, Lori, delivered an impassioned address to the school board in an Aug. 2 meeting to encourage Fernandes’ reinstatement.
Kuczma and Alyson Gardner, the president of the School Board, have not publicly discussed the matter.
Chappaqua finished 8-13 last season, falling to Ramapo in the playoffs. Fernandes was named the Westchester County Basketball Coaches Association Conference II Coach of the Year in 1998, and several teams made strong runs in the state tournament.
He has worked at the school since 1985 and was profiled in a New York Times article i n 2000.
Fernandes’ supporters voiced their support at a school board meeting in early August. The petition said there was no resolution on the issue after another school board meeting on Monday, Aug. 15.
A Facebook page has also been created to support Fernandes. Comments have also been posted on the petition. “I’ve know Dave as a coach for both basketball and softball and have not found any other coach who is as committed to our young men and women, selflessly giving of himself to make them not only better athletes but gentlemen and women,’’ Paul Eiden of Mount Kisco said.