Players help Medford coach get another year

Soccer team had threatened to boycott season

Coach Mike Petrides and players (from left) Gilbert Simas, Jonathan Pires, and Emmanuel Gonzalez at Medford City Hall. Coach Mike Petrides and players (from left) Gilbert Simas, Jonathan Pires, and Emmanuel Gonzalez at Medford City Hall. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / July 31, 2011

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MEDFORD - The popular coach of Medford High School’s boys soccer team was reinstated yesterday by the headmaster, who said public uproar over his earlier decision to let Michael Petrides go threatened the cohesiveness of the school and community.

Paul H. Krueger said he still believed he made the right decision when he decided to not bring back Petrides for a fifth season. But he acknowledged that public pressure - including a vote by the School Committee to support Petrides and a threat by varsity players to boycott the fall soccer season - prompted him to reconsider.

“Sometimes there are things more important than being right,’’ Krueger said at a press conference yesterday morning at Medford City Hall. “I have chosen to hold as priorities the cohesiveness and overall long-term interests of Medford High School and of the Medford community.’’

He said controversy over his original decision “pit student against student, teacher against teacher, team against team, and neighbor against neighbor.’’

Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, who publicly supported Petrides, praised Krueger for meeting with Superintendent Roy Belson and Robert Maloney, the athletic director, to review his decision.

“In Medford, when there is a conflict, people can go into a room and solve it,’’ McGlynn said during the press conference in his office.

Jonathan Pires, 15, a junior captain, thanked Krueger for reinstating Petrides, whom many players consider a father figure, he said.

In recent weeks, players pleaded for help from the City Council and School Committee to help save their coach.

Pires apologized for the threatened boycott. “Emotions got in the way,’’ Pires said, flanked by two other captains at the conference. “We are Mustangs. We would have played. Coach [Petrides] wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.’’

Petrides, 50, has coached soccer for 30 years, from youth leagues to a statewide men’s league. At Medford High, he served seven years as an assistant boys coach and was named head coach in 2007. He had a 14-3-5 record last season in Greater Boston League play. The team lost in the Division 1 North quarterfinal in the playoffs.

State law gives a school principal the sole authority to hire athletic coaches. In a letter to Petrides, Krueger cited three reasons he would not be brought back for this season.

In a game against Malden Catholic High School two years ago, Petrides allowed his son, who was not on the team, to stand on the sidelines, which is not allowed. He also removed soccer nets from a practice field last season, after being told not to go near the field because it was being reseeded.

But the most serious issue came during a game Oct. 25 against Boston College High School. Petrides protested when a referee did not stop play after a Medford player went down on the field.

Petrides received a red card, which carries an automatic ejection and a two-game suspension, according to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“He wanted a call for a collision between two players,’’ said Paul Wetzel, spokesman for the association, which governs high school sports. “Then he continued to complain, including the use of obscenities. He was removed from the game.’’

Coaches who receive red cards must complete a sportsmanship workshop offered by the athletic association, or take an online course. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association sent a letter to Krueger March 7 stating Petrides was ineligible to coach this season, because he hadn’t taken a workshop or course.

Petrides later took the online course, and a letter confirming that will soon be sent to the state athletic association, said Maloney, the athletic director.

Krueger said yesterday that he expects “dramatic improvements in certain areas’’ from Petrides this season. He declined to cite specifics.

Petrides said he is looking forward to a fresh start. “Now it’s time to turn the page and move on to a new chapter,’’ Petrides said in brief remarks at the press conference. “We have a lot of work ahead of us.’’

Kathy McCabe can be reached at