Firing coach too harsh, some claim
By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer
The most severe punishment dealt a coach in the 45-year history of the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association is too harsh, says coaching colleagues and parents of some of his players.
Fred Guzman, coach of the Baldwin High boys soccer team for the past 12 years, has been banned from coaching in state tournaments or coaching any sport in the Maui Interscholastic League for five years and on Friday he was fired by Baldwin High School because he wouldn't resign.
One of Guzman's players deliberately knocked a referee to the ground after previously unbeaten Baldwin lost to Pearl City 4-3 in the state tournament on O'ahu on Feb. 13. The player was banned for life, but he's a senior. Baldwin's boys soccer program was put on "conduct probation" for one year. But the heaviest hammer by far fell on Guzman, whose teams have won five of the past six Maui titles.
"Fred may deserve a reprimand, but not five years. There is no way Fred should be suspended for that period of time," said Campbell High coach Frank Marotti, who was a coaching peer of Guzman's in San Jose, Calif., before they moved to Hawai'i about 10 years apart.
"I don't know all the particulars," Marotti added, "but this is making an example of someone."
Not knowing all the particulars was a problem raised by several.
Some state and Maui officials, referees and some coaches have said privately that Baldwin's boys soccer teams have demonstrated an increasing lack of discipline for several years. The penalty against Guzman, they indicated, was the cumulative result of the deteriorating discipline on his team.
They offered off-the-record examples, but none of the officials, referees or coaches who spoke to The Advertiser would go on the record.
On Maui, a group of about 40 people waved signs supporting Guzman in front of Baldwin High for an hour Thursday morning.
"If I didn't think Fred was good for the kids I wouldn't be here,'' said Chuck Nunes, who has two sons in the Baldwin program and was holding a sign along Ka'ahumanu Avenue. "We support Fred.''
The next day, Guzman was fired.
Guzman and his supporters were not allowed to appear before the Maui league's principals at the Friday meeting. "They have only heard one side of the story,'' Nunes said.
Guzman did not respond to several messages from The Advertiser since Friday's announcement of the new penalties by Stephen Kim, executive secretary of the Maui Interscholastic League.
Earlier in the week, Guzman said the penalties were not justified and that he would appeal them.
St. Joseph of Hilo coach David Mena, who played for Guzman at Branham High in San Jose, said, "(The penalties) shock me. I think Fred has done so much for the community on Maui that the positives are not always brought out where the negative comments have been overwhelming."
"It's the perils of coaching. You work your butt off, and then get kicked in it," Marotti said.
Correction: It was Campbell boys soccer coach Frank Marotti in the last paragraph who said: "It's the perils of coaching. You work your butt off, and then get kicked in it." In a previous version of this story, the attribution was wrong.