D.J. Chernovetz, 42; led Marblehead 11 to winning season

By Maureen Mullen
Globe Correspondent / August 17, 2011

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Douglas J. Chernovetz, a controversial coach who helped Marblehead High School football return to prominence, died Aug. 7, while on a camping trip in New Hampshire with his wife, Susan.

The death of the Lowell resident is believed to have been caused by a heart attack. He would have turned 43 Sept. 27.

His brother Brad described him as “a family man, a teacher, a coach, a person that never had regrets.’’

“He lived for today,’’ said his brother, who lives in Wallingford, Conn. “He was just an all-around great person. Everyone who met him always liked him. He was the life of the party.

“He just knew how to get along with people, how to deal with people’s different personalities. I just think he’d like to be remembered as a free-spirit person, an unbelievable brother, an unbelievable husband, an unbelievable father, and an unbelievable teacher and coach.’’

Born in New Haven, he was raised in Bethany, Conn. He graduated from Amity Regional Senior High School in Woodbridge in 1987 and majored in political science at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, graduating in 1991.

Mr. Chernovetz had been a teacher for 17 years, and most recently taught social studies at Wilmington Middle School, where he was about to enter his ninth year, his brother said.

Of the many who attended the wake Thursday and funeral Friday, Brad remembered one student in particular, a middle school boy who had Mr. Chernovetz as a teacher this past school year, who came with his parents.

“They just said that Doug just changed [the student’s] life forever,’’ said Brad. “[The boy] didn’t think he would ever want to go to school and Doug just sat and talked to him, like a mentor to this little kid. It was real heartwarming.’’

He served as an assistant coach for Dan Bauer at Beverly High before getting the job at Marblehead, where he was head football coach from 2005 through 2008. In his final year, he led the Magicians to their first winning season since 1992.

But his time at Marblehead was tumultuous. He served a two-game suspension during the 2008 season for chewing tobacco in front of his team, and he was the target of a lawsuit brought by a former player, who said Mr. Chernovetz had assaulted and berated him. The suit alleged emotional distress and contended Mr. Chernovetz had been abusive to many teammates.

Mr. Chernovetz’s attorney, Samuel Perkins, said at the time that his client was the victim of a “smear campaign’’ intended to get him fired. The case was later dropped, Perkins said.

Mr. Chernovetz did not return to the Marblehead coaching job after the 2008 season. He had coached lacrosse at Andover High the last few years, his brother said.

The lawsuit “did weigh on him,’’ Brad said. “That situation really took a part of Doug. He was a teacher, a coach who did things the right way. He was old-fashioned in that respect, but he did things the right way. . . . He always said, ‘I tried to do things the way my father did,’ and my father was a teacher, a coach. He always said, ‘This is the way dad would have done it, and this is the way I would have done it.’’

Mr. Chernovetz tried not to let the pain show.

“He was always, first and foremost, a gentleman,’’ Bauer said. “He cared about others. That’s how I’ll remember Doug.

“He gave so much of himself as a coach. I know [the lawsuit and suspension] bothered him personally, but I know that it didn’t get in his way of what he thought was right, in terms of working hard and pushing others.’’

Sam Perlow was one of the first students Mr. Chernovetz coached at Marblehead. He recruited Perlow away from St. John’s Prep to help turn around the Marblehead program.

It took four years, but they finally got that winning season for Marblehead.

“Coach Chern loved football, and he loved all the kids,’’ Perlow said. “When we clinched our first winning record, we beat Winthrop to get our sixth win, and that was our first winning record since 1992. I remember hugging Coach Chern after the game and looking at each other and him telling me, ‘We did it.’ That was probably my biggest football memory. He definitely had great ideals. He talked about doing the little things right.’’

Perlow, now a student at Amherst College, led a group of football players who supported Mr. Chernovetz throughout the lawsuit.

“Honestly, I think it probably helped us,’’ Perlow said. “It brought us all together. He knew we had his back, and senior year we had the first winning record in [16] years.’’

After his suspension, he told the Globe he tried to use it as a teaching tool for his players.

In 2008, Mr. Chernovetz said: “I told them since freshman year, You do the right thing and if you don’t, you ’fess up and you take responsibility for your actions and you move on. You make a mistake, you pay for your mistake, and hopefully you don’t make the mistake again.

“I’m a perfect example of making a mistake, being held accountable, taking responsibility for it and paying the price.’’

His impact was not lost. “He talked about turning boys into men, and I can confidently say he turned me . . . into a man,’’ Perlow said. “I wouldn’t be at Amherst College if it wasn’t for him.’’

Besides his brother Brad and his wife, Mr. Chernovetz leaves his son, Casey J. Cosgrove, and daughter, Maggie C. Cosgrove, both of Lowell; his parents, John R. and Audrey (Smullen) of Bethany, Conn.; another brother, Timothy B. of Jackson, Ohio; and a sister, Kristen C. Blake of Wallingford, Conn.

Mullen can be reached at