New York High School: Mike Camardese

Canarsie coach says he's been let go

May, 25, 2012
Who's the Canarsie football coach?

Well, it depends who you ask.

Mike Camardese, the coach for the last 28 years, received an unsatisfactory "U" rating from the school May 7, and thus was told by the United Federation of Teachers he is no longer the coach. He has filed an appeal through the union, but it will take six to eight months to resolve.

Canarsie Athletic Director Dale Wilson, meanwhile, said Thursday Camardese is still the head coach, although he is looking into "rectifying" the situation. Wilson was referring to Camardese not being present at the team's spring activities.

"He was not terminated," Wilson said. "I can't answer any questions about it because he has a case pending and he has filed a grievance."

Camardese, 56, insists he has been let go, saying the athletic director is using semantics to make it seem as if he's still the coach. He owns a career 196-100 record, including a 7-3 mark last season, and led the team to four Public Schools Athletic League title games.

"He told me himself. When he gave me the U-rating, I asked if I was no longer the coach and he told me I wasn't the coach anymore," Camardese. "They wanted me to stay on until they hired a new coach and transition with the boys, which makes no sense to me."

Camardese did not want to go into specifics about what contributed to his U-rating, but mentioned showing up early to games -- yes, early, not late -- and his coaches parking in wrong spots as things used against him in his grading. He said he was the only member of the coaching staff to receive the U-rating.

"They told me about the U-rating and I said 'tell me to my face I'm not a good football coach,'" Camardese said. "I was told they think I'm a great coach between the lines, it's the other stuff I couldn’t do, which was ridiculous. Last year, they tried to take away some of my coaches and parents fought against that. They wanted me out and the bureaucrats were able to do it."

Camardese, a retired physical education teacher, is appealing the rating, but the timetable of the appeals process would keep him out until the end of the season, if he can return at all. He questioned the timing of his dismissal, as it prevented him from having his appeals process before the season began.

He said his removal is part of a school-wide effort to get rid of anyone who had ties to the old Canarsie High School. Canarsie was phased into the Canarsie Educational Campus at the end of the 2010-11 school year, and the coach said the new administration has made it almost impossible to coach. He said the boys and girls basketball coaches both left under the new leadership, and all banners of former teams' accomplishments were removed.

"They cut down on practice times, we had to go to a park to practice instead of the school. They told me we couldn't come into the school before 10 a.m. on the day of a game, which is utterly ridiculous," Camardese said. "It was just ridiculous stuff."

While he may not ever coach Canaraise again, Camardese said this would not be the end of his coaching career.

"I'll be back somewhere," Camardese said. "I have a lot of things to accomplish."

Game of the Week: Canarsie hosts Lincoln

October, 27, 2011
Mike Camardese believes one can’t know where he’s going, until he knows where he’s been.

So, despite the wishes of Canarsie Educational Campus administrators to shed evidence of its former self – even removing Canarsie High School athletic banners from the gymnasium – the veteran football coach won’t let his team forget. Canarsie High School was completely phased out by the Department of Education at the end of the last academic school year and replaced by Canarsie Educational Campus, consisting of three small schools.

A Canarsie High School Chiefs Hall of Fame placard is mounted on top of the wall that runs between the locker room and the Brooklyn school’s artificial field. Beneath it rests a collage sporting photographs of former players like Steven Rene and Kevin Brown, as well as newspaper clippings that flaunt victories of myth-like proportions.

Also beneath the placard are three words in black, block lettering: Tradition Never Graduates.

The previous year’s seniors were the last who were part of the original Canarsie High School, a dying group that was slowly phased out by the Department of Education beginning in 2008. The change in student body affected the team’s talent pool, as well as its record. Two years ago, the Chiefs were 3-6. Last year, they were 2-7.

“Every school that phases out goes through this,” said Camardese, who has served as head coach since 1983. “A lot of those schools drop down to lower divisions. I wasn’t going to do that. I’m not made that way.”

It seems Camardese made the right decision.

Although this season marks the first time Camardese will be coaching an entirely Canarsie Educational Campus team, with a 6-1 record, the Chiefs are staying true to the winning tradition of their former school. Canarsie’s only loss was to Flushing High School in Week 3. No. 7 Canarsie hosts No. 3 Lincoln in's Game of the Week on Saturday at noon in Brooklyn.

The Chief’s offense is a little shaky, but their defense has kept them in every game. In last week’s 20-8 victory over Thomas Jefferson, Canarsie tallied 216 total offensive yards – only about half the amount Jefferson posted. But, the Chiefs recovered a fumble and forced two interceptions.

Heading the “small and fast” defense is last year’s division leader in tackles, junior Donchervel Smith, who is on pace to repeat the accomplishment with 75 thus far. Smith also has nine touchdowns and has totaled 222 rushing yards.

The Chiefs’ offense is led by junior quarterback Giovanni Alexis, who has thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions. Alexis isn’t incredibly accurate with a 44.66 passing percentage, but he’s enough of a vocal leader to help Canarsie win.

Canarsie’s most promising attribute heading toward the postseason may be its ability to come back and win. In the last three games, the Chiefs have scored 50 points in the fourth quarter and beyond. And three weeks ago, they forced a 20-14 overtime victory over Dewitt Clinton.

Alexis said he’s glad his team doesn’t rattle easily, but he’d like the scoring to be more spread out this week against Lincoln High School, an undefeated team that established itself as a forced to be reckoned with when it fought its way into the city title game last season.

“From when the ball is snapped until the last whistle blows, we’ll play with the same intensity,” Alexis promised.

Although Canarsie lost in their meeting last season, the Chiefs held Lincoln, a team that was averaging 29.5 points, to only 8 points. Once again, Canarsie will have to flex its strongest muscle: its defense.

“We can’t let them score 40 points,” Donchervel said of Lincoln, “because they’re averaging 40 points a game on every team.”

Technically, the Railsplitters are averaging 43 points this season, but Camardese isn’t concerned. He said the Chiefs “should’ve won” their match-up last year.

“They took apart Sheepshead Bay last week, and they can do the same thing to us,” Camardese said. “But, I’m thinking the way we’re going to prepare, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”