Voorheesville girls’ basketball coach resigns amid unstated allegations

Robert Baron,

Enterprise file photo
Robert Baron, who coached varsity girls' basketball for Voorheesville for a decade, resigned on Tuesday.

VOORHEESVILLE — At an early-morning special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21, a quorum of the Voorheesville Board of Education voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Robert Baron as girls’ varsity basketball coach.

Girls’ junior-varsity coach Andrew Karins, a physical-education and health teacher in the district, has been named varsity coach for the rest of the nascent season.  

The meeting’s agenda states the reason given for Baron’s resignation is “personal.”

The resignation was effective Friday, Nov. 17, the day after an article appeared in The Enterprise that said: “In response to community concerns about girls’ basketball coach, Robert Baron, The Enterprise left many phone messages for Baron and for Voorheesville athletic director, Joseph Sapienza but received no response.”

On Nov. 13, The Enterprise was told by Superintendent Brian Hunt: “Right now, we’re investigating a situation. That’s all I can tell you.”

Calls to Coach Baron were not returned, again this week.

After the school board voted to accept Baron’s resignation, the public was given the chance to offer comments.

“I’m disappointed in how you handled the whole thing, all right? Straight up, all right?” said Bob Burns. “You’ve got good people on both sides.”

Burns said that Coach Baron is a close, personal friend.

“At the same time, I wrote [student athlete’s name withheld] character reference. I’m not coming in here — I know this thing could have had a different outcome,” Burns said.

“These are good people on both sides,” he reiterated.

“I think it’s terrible, I know what he’s done for the community outside this realm,” Burns said.

The board was then given its chance to comment, and board President Doreen Saia was pointed in her remarks.

“Youth sports is enormously important, and I sit on those sidelines all the time,” said Saia. “So — understand — that we care very, very much about what happens to your children, and this team.

“This one hit me hard too, because I see how important sports are for students — incredibly important,” said Saia

“We were faced with some difficult issues,” she said.

“At the end of the day, these girls deserve our best — period,” Saia said.

Looking ahead

This will be Karins’s first varsity coaching job.

For the past five years, he’s coached girls’ junior varsity; for the three years before that, he coached boys’ junior varsity, and was the freshman boys’ coach for two years before that.

“I’m excited for the opportunity, I know all the players and their skills sets. I think, as a program, we’re looking good this year,” Karins told The Enterprise.

Karins said of Baron, “I worked with him for the past five years; I think he’s done a lot for the girls’ program. It’s unfortunate that it came about this way,” he said.

Karins said he is not worried about team morale.

“I think throughout this whole process, with me coaching the girls, they’ve come together really well this preseason, and I think they have a common goal to be sectional champs,” he said.

“With what has happened, they see it as more of a speed bump — they were a solid group before everything that has happened … They have shown that they will stick together,” Karins said.  

Originally, a controversial hire

In June 2007, John McClement resigned as varsity-girls’ basketball coach to take a coaching job as the varsity coach of the boys’ basketball team at Albany High School.

Voorheesville received four applications for the job — one from the former school board president, Robert Baron.

After it was reported that Baron had applied for the job, almost immediately, there was concern from the Voorheesville community. The Enterprise received phone calls from residents — two of them anonymously and two who wanted their names withheld — concerned that Baron had already been appointed, which he had not, and alleging that he was not qualified for the position.

Linda Langevin, the superintendent at the time, had considered recommending Baron to the school board for its approval, but reversed her decision after learning the teachers’ union would sue.

Baron, who at the time had been coaching basketball for 20 years, was not a certified teacher and, according to state regulations, “A person who does not hold a current New York State teaching certificate may be employed as a temporary coach only if there are no certified teachers available with experience and qualifications to coach the team."

By August 2007, the board had appointed Dennis McCormick, the coach of the girls’ junior varsity basketball team, as varsity coach

By the end of August, McCormick had declined his appointment as coach, citing personal reasons.

By October 2007, the teachers’ union dropped its threat of a lawsuit, and Baron was unanimously approved by the school board; two members were not present at the vote.

Re-establishing a winning tradition

Baron took over a Ladybird basketball program that had seen better days.

The team had had a winning tradition, with two Class C state championships — in 1998 and 2002 — in the previous decade before Baron became head coach.

But, the two seasons prior to Baron’s appointment were disappointments, with the team having gone 2-19 and 5-16.

In his first season as coach, Baron led the Ladybirds to a 10-13 record, and reached the Class CC semi-finals.

In his second season, a complete turnaround was nearly achieved. Having gone 17-5, the team made it to the Class CC title game, only to lose to Hoosic Valley.

The team’s performance over the past few seasons has been middling; going 7-7 last season; 16-6 during the 2015-16 season; 9-12 in 2014-15; and 10-8 in 2013-14.

Athletic Director Joseph Sapienza told The Enterprise this week that Baron had a successful run, and that he always demanded the best from his teams. Sapienza considers Baron’s resignation a loss for the program.

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