Nazareth girls basketball coach Apache Paschall will have to wait for his league to make a decision on alleged recruiting violations. But on Feb. 16 the head man of the nationally ranked Lady Kingsmen found out he was suspended by his school for insubordination.
The CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens principals committee discussed Paschall’s pending investigation at its meeting last Wednesday and decided to “table the discussion” for now, according to two principals in the meeting.
Paschall’s recruiting of eighth graders was documented in a published report back in December and Nazareth, ranked No. 16 in the country by USA Today, could face a year ban if it was found that he had “professionally recruited,” or induced players to come to the school through financial means.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen later on,” Christ the King principal Peter Mannarino said. “All I know is they’re going to address it at a later date.”
But Naz principal Providencia Quiles was the one who sidelined Paschall yesterday. The coach broke his media gag order about the investigation in an exclusive sit-down interview on Feb. 15 and will have to miss two postseason games – a possible huge first-place tiebreaker with Christ the King on Feb. 23 and the Brooklyn/Queens quarterfinals – and a week of practice, Quiles said.
Paschall referred all questions to her on the matter and as of last Wednesday night did not tell his players about the decision.
“When I make decisions, I try to incorporate how that affects the whole team,” Quiles said, referring to the entire school. “Because we are a team. Good or bad, we’re always a team.”
She said that Paschall was accepting of the punishment.
“I think he understands,” Quiles said. “And my whole approach to everything is we are a team. Everything that affects you, affects me, affects the school. What do you tell your kids when you reprimand them – this hurts me than it hurts you. This hurts me more than it hurts him.”
Paschall was at the center of controversy before he even walked a Brooklyn/Queens sideline. The former coach at now-closed St. Michael Academy in Manhattan he came to Nazareth this year with the majority of his St. Mike’s players en tow, which drew the ire of opposing coaches and league administrators.
When a printed report documented Paschall’s quest to sway kids from going to other league schools to Nazareth, Brooklyn/Queens took action. The league’s CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens girls Eligibility and Infractions Committee set a meeting to discuss the allegations that Paschall never denied in the article.
“People can’t stop talking about it,” a league source said under condition of anonymity in December. “Quite clearly, people are very upset about it.”
Three weeks ago, Paschall, assistant Ron Kelley and Nazareth administrators met with the Eligibility and Infractions Committee and were asked about four things, Paschall said in Tuesday’s interview. Their concerns were about his entering eighth grader’s homes to recruit them; a threat made in print to take things out on league teams on the court; the break in tuition that former St. Mike’s students got at Nazareth; and a printed picture last spring with eighth graders in it as if they were already members of the Nazareth team.
“I was surprised when all this stuff came up,” Paschall said on Tuesday. “I was like, what did I do? I’m trying to find the fine print now. What everybody is saying is recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. Years ago I started looking at the whole recruiting thing and there was no such rule about not being able to recruit. Unless your perception of recruiting is different. To me recruiting is you can go watch a junior high school kid play and tell them about your program. High schools recruit junior high school kids – period. That never made sense to me.”
The CHSAA constitution says there shall be no “professional recruiting of elementary school athletes,” which means, according to the document, anyone working for a school, paid or unpaid, cannot offer any financial inducement to a student or his or her parents or legal guardians “in order to secure that student for that school for the purpose of playing in the school’s athletic program.”
The penalty for “professional recruiting,” according to the CHSAA constitution, is a steep one. Any violation “shall result in the school’s being suspended for the remainder of the season and for a minimum of the following season from participating in the sport involved.” Also any game played by an ineligible athlete would be forfeited.
Sources said that the Eligibility and Infractions Committee made its recommendation to the principals committee and a decision was supposed to be made Wednesday. Quiles said after a long discussion, the topic was put on hold and she was not sure when or if it would be readdressed.
“It was tabled,” said Quiles, who is in her first year at Nazareth. “There were several other [academic] things we needed to cover in the meeting. We’re in the business of educating.”
Messages left for St. Edmund principal John Lorenzetti, the head of the principals committee, went unreturned Wednesday afternoon. Several other league principals declined comment on the matter.
Paschall said that the looming investigation has been hurting his program. And now there doesn’t seem to be a specific end in sight.
“I know in the back of the kids’ heads and the parents’ heads, it’s definitely bothering them,” he said on Tuesday. “Because people are talking about us forfeiting the season. They worked all hard all season and then find out right before the playoffs that they could forfeit for no reason. That has to wear on people’s minds.”
The coach said he decided to open up despite the gag order, because he felt his side of the story needed to be heard.
“At the end of the day, I know in my heart and the people around me know in their heart that we’re doing something that matters, that’s good,” Paschall said in Tuesday’s Q&A. “They can say anything they want bad about me. We’re getting these kids to college. We’re giving them a chance. This is why I started doing this. I just feel like our voice had to be put out. It had to be said.”