Senior Meighan Murphy emerged from the meeting with tears streaming down her face.
“It isn’t fair,” Murphy said, as she struggled to compose herself.
Murphy, a member of the Mount St. Mary’s varsity basketball team, was the student representative during a Mount Board of Trustees meeting that was held inside the school library Wednesday night.
The Board met with a small group of parents who were looking for answers as to why beloved basketball coach Michael McCarthy was shockingly let go on April 5.
The girls were informed of the news that day via a mass email. Something the school would later admit was handled poorly on their part. But it was too late. The damage was done as girls all broke out in tears upon hearing the news.
McCarthy, who had spent his first year at Mount as the JV coach, took over varsity at the start of the 2014-15 season and guided the Thunder to the Catholic High School Athletic Association Class B state championship. The first ever state title in Mount history. He also was at the helm of the team when they scored the program’s first-ever win over Sacred Heart this season.
While parents appreciated the fact that the Board met with them in an open forum where both sides could be heard, there was still obvious concerns over unanswered questions. Most notably, the truth behind why McCarthy was let go.
“I think everybody was looking for some answers,” said John Meegan, one of the parents who expressed his thoughts during the meeting.
“Most of the things that had been said are things that had already been said. I don’t want to say (they were) hiding behind the law, but it was ‘we can’t divulge this. We can’t divulge that.’ We really tried to pin them down. And here’s the million dollar question: is there any chance that you’re gonna re-hire coach McCarthy? Is it a possibility? Anything is possible….They did the best they can as a Board.”
John, and his wife Anne Meegan, saw all four of their girls Emily, Susie, Catherine and Molly, go through and play multiple sports at the Mount. In fact, Molly, a senior, and Catherine were both members of the 2015 state title team..
The Meegan’s are all staunch supporters of McCarthy. Not just the coach, but the man who impacted their daughters in such a positive, caring way. John Meegan spoke of how Catherine expressed an interest in playing college lacrosse, but that women coaches at the Mount told Catherine, a member of the 100 goal club, that she wasn’t good enough. It was McCarthy who instilled in Catherine the belief to never give up.
Catherine Meegan signed a scholarship to play for Mercyhurst. She helped them win a championship this season,
For the kids and the parents, whose numbers are overwhelmingly on McCarthy’s side, the most disturbing part is they feel McCarthy’s dismissal is rooted in the fact that some of the younger female administrators in the school do not agreed with his vocal, demanding coaching style. One dad pointed out that in a school where there are no male administrators, to remove a strong male role model is a horrible decision and does nothing to benefit the student body.
“Imagine the message it tells the girls,” he said.
If these accusations are true, the parents are questioning the overall direction in the school itself is taking.
“I would hope that this isn’t the case,” said Janice O’Brien, whose daughter Grace has played for McCarthy for two seasons, “but I think the values of the Mount may be changing with the administration changing and that is not why I brought my daughter here. We just want to hold good values and that’s what we’re hoping and praying for.”
Ultimately the parents concerns and are multi-layered. Among the strongest of their worries is how outsiders are perceiving McCarthy’s character throughout this matter. Whispers among the uninformed are that McCarthy must have done something inappropriate to result in being let go. Parents who rallied around McCarthy emphatically stated nothing could be further from the truth.
“They couldn’t give us any reason that it wasn’t (clean),” Meegan said of McCarthy’s reputation.
“My first thought when I got the email was oh Mike took a job at a college. It never crossed my mind that it could be improprieties.”
Janice O’Brien strongly defended McCarthy’s character as well.
“In today’s society, it’s sad because people automatically think that (a man has done something wrong),” O’Brien said.
“It’s sad because it’s ruining his reputation. But after reading the letters from several people; alumni and future students we all know that is not the case and we would stand behind coach no matter what.”
Along with the countless hours that McCarthy poured into the program-early morning practices on his time, summer league-he was also very instrumental in organizing financial aid packages for students who were looking to come to Mount. The school even praised McCarthy and his accomplishments in brochures promoting the Mount. Which has parents and kids asking, “How is he good enough to help sell people on the idea of coming here, but not good enough to stay on?”
When asked for her thoughts after the two hour meeting, Mount Principal Dawn Riggie respectfully declined to comment. Saying that the Board needed time to process all of the information that was discussed during the meeting. But that she would be open to comment at a later time.
Ultimately, no final decision regarding McCarthy’s reinstatement was made. So it’s a matter of waiting, for now. When the meeting was over Riggie and Board members looked out of the window and saw a group of Mount basketball girls and classmates holding signs reading “Bring Back McCarthy!” and “Family is Everything!”
The message from the players was simple. If it really is about what’s best for us, then why are you taking away someone who we care about, who cares about us!?
A reasonable question. One that deserves a straight, honest answer.
“There are good men in the world, not just good women,” said Janice O’Brien.