Niles coach resigns after parental interference

By Steve ruman



Just five games into the season, the Niles McKinley High girls basketball team has found itself under new leadership.

Michael Cappuzzello, who was hired as the Red Dragons’ basketball coach last April, abruptly resigned Tuesday. He submitted a letter of resignation to Niles athletic director Marc Fritz, one day after Niles won its first game of the season.

Cappuzzello’s departure also leaves a void with two other Niles sports programs. Cappuzzello served as the girls tennis coach this past fall. In November, he was hired as the softball coach.

Cappuzzello confirmed on Thursday that he also stepped down from those positions.

“I love Niles, I love the town, I love the people, but it just wasn’t going to work out,” Cappuzzello said. “We have five girls on the court at once, and one basketball, and that wasn’t satisfactory for some parents.

“I thank Niles for the opportunity, I feel blessed that I was offered the chance. It’s a shame it couldn’t work out.”

Cappuzzello said that his decision to resign stems from the fact that he faced “numerous altercations” with the parents of some players since the beginning of preseason workouts. The tension came to a head following Monday’s 51-39 home win over Jefferson.

“I played a girl for three quarters, and her mom got in my face and screamed at me, ‘Three isn’t enough, she’s a senior,’” Cappuzzello said. “After that, the father was even more vocal, and much more aggressive. It was the last straw. I tried to coach through it Tuesday at practice, but I knew it wasn’t going to work.

“I’m shocked. I’ve coached for 30 years and in all that time I don’t think I ever had more than one incident a year where parents complained about playing time. This year, there were numerous altercations from the very start. It was an ongoing issue.”

Cappuzzello served as a head girls varsity basketball coach at Hubbard in 2007, leading the Eagles to a 17-6 record. Cappuzzello was an assistant football coach at Ursuline when the Irish won a state title in 2000. He has also coached golf, softball and baseball at the high school level.

Cappuzzello, a teacher in the Badger School District, joined the Niles boys basketball staff in 2016. He was the boys freshman coach last year before taking over the girls program. He retained the staff of assistant coaches which served under Doug Foster in 2017-18.

“I thought that bringing the staff back would enhance the program, but it did just the opposite,” Cappuzzello said. “There was no continuity. My ideas, my judgment in terms of playing time was questioned from the first scrimmage.”

Cappuzzello said he has not ruled out the possibility of a return to coaching in the future.

Fritz said Makayla Butler has been promoted from varsity assistant to interim head coach “for the foreseeable future.”

Butler, a 2015 Niles graduate, has served as a varsity assistant for the past two years.

“This all happened pretty quickly,” Fritz said. “We’ll post the softball position in a timely manner, and we’ll evaluate the basketball situation as we move forward.”

Butler earned a victory in her first game Thursday as Niles (2-4) defeated Lakeview 50-37.

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