For personal and professional reasons, Paul “Brooksie” Brooks stepped down after five years as boys soccer coach at Scarsdale High School.
The decision was several months in the making dating back to late 2018 as 1) Brooks’ 12-year-old son Cameron has spent time playing soccer overseas and 2) Brooks felt he could no longer trust a certain population of the community that he said was making various unfounded allegations in order to discredit him.
“People are defaming my character… and that’s when you have to take a really hard look and say, ‘Is it really worth it?’” Brooks said. “For the most part these kids have worked hard and they’re good kids and they give everything they have. And I give everything I have and I try to help these kids on and off the field as much as I can. I’m not perfect, but I can say with a clear conscience that I gave everything I could to these kids. I’m happy with the past five years what’s been happening with the kids because at the end of the day it’s about the kids.”
Brooks opted not to go on record about the details of the accusations and although they were not enough to lead to his dismissal by the athletic department, they weighed too heavily on Brooks to stick around.
Brooks seemed reluctant, disappointed and deflated that he would not be returning to work with the student-athletes, though at the same time relieved that he’d be removing himself from what he viewed as an increasingly toxic situation with some community members.
The Inquirer had been made aware of multiple allegations against Brooks, one prior to his resignation, one after, but they were presented without context and with unknown motivation, so the newspaper has decided not to further contribute to the situation by publishing them.
“There’s a lot of other stuff,” Brooks said, adding, “There were quite a number of things” that he felt impacted his reputation and his family.
His lone regret, he said, was not leading the Raiders to a Section 1 championship, one of the goals when he came on board in 2014.
“I’m sorry we fell short every year,” he said. “At the end of the day in reflection on the past players they’ve given everything they had and that’s all I asked of them.”
When Brooks was first hired to replace Joe Cipriano by then-interim athletic director Joe DeCrescenzo, the boys soccer program was energized as many of the players had previously been trained by Brooks, a co-founder of New York Soccer Club. That excitement lasted the first two or three years as the team thrived on the field and twice made the Section 1 semifinals. The last two years were more contentious as the team got off to losing starts before rebounding toward the end of the season and making strong pushes in postseason.
“I had a previous relationship with a lot of the players,” Brooks said of those who encouraged him to apply for the position in the first place. “They knew me and I knew them and we were comfortable with each other. The first couple of years was very good because they knew exactly what I wanted due to the fact that I was training them from a younger age.”
When asked if there were issues with Brooks during his tenure, fourth-year athletic director Ray Pappalardi, who has not hesitated to fire coaches over the years, said he could only speak in general terms: “We get complaints in the office all the time and we do our best to investigate those. We do have a process that we like to stick to if at all possible. Those documents were published long before I got here. Those guidelines really help us in our decision-making process.”
Often, he said, complaints do not turn out to be true, which is why the process is so important.
Pappalardi was aware of Brooks’ situation with Cameron having opportunities to play soccer in South America and Europe — Brooks was a former professional himself — and was aware of how much the complaints against Brooks were impacting him negatively, so Brooks’ resignation was not unexpected.
Pappalardi and Brooks both said they had a very transparent relationship and talked often over the last four years.
“All I can tell you is that Brooksie and I had an open and honest dialogue throughout his time here and I think he’s been really reflective upon his experience here and his influence on the kids,” Pappalardi said. “He can give you details if he wants to on the choice not to return.”
Pappalardi said that while he could not share the details of the personnel matter, it was “possible” he would have re-upped Brooks for the yearly appointment had he decided not to step down. Pappalardi lauded Brooks for his coaching ability and knowledge of the game.
“I really didn’t know that until I saw him working with middle school kids,” Pappalardi said of last fall. “That experience was incredible just to watch him break down skills and the way they should be performed in a short one-hour session was incredible. It was in their ability to perform, but he pulled it out of them in a very short period of time.
“Before that I knew he was a good soccer coach as far as X’s and O’s. I knew of his résumé and his credentials, but I never really witnessed his true coaching ability until seeing him work with the middle school students.”
After making his decision, Brooks reached out to next year’s captains, current juniors Ben Rubin and Zach Medvinsky, who both said they were surprised by the announcement.
On April 16, Pappalardi emailed parents in the soccer program to inform them of the opening and invited students to be a part of the hiring process for the replacement. Pappalardi said he has not spoken with any of the other coaches who were in the program last fall, including five-year assistant Drew Nagel, who was brought in by Brooks.
Brooks was originally supposed to address the team last Friday, but that meeting was moved to yesterday after school.
“I don’t want to say too much, but I think that he cared, I think that he wanted us to win, but I don’t think he employed the best tactics in training and treated us the way we should be treated,” said Rubin, who played for Brooks for one year, on Wednesday.
Medvinsky was called up mid-freshman year from junior varsity to varsity, so he played 2.5 seasons for Brooks.
“I thought he really helped me improve as a player and I learned a lot from him,” Medvinsky said. “He definitely knew his soccer. He knew formations and tactics at a very high level. He has very good soccer knowledge.”
Medvinsky said Brooks could be a screamer, but said it was “never over the top or anything like that.” The last two years in particular the team got off to very slow starts and Brooks often called the team’s work ethic into question. Both years the team rebounded well in the second half and made a strong postseason push.
“I was very surprised and I was disappointed because I’ve been with him for three years and built a relationship with him,” Medvinsky said. “But I’m also looking forward to the process of finding a new coach. I think it’s a very exciting prospect.”
Both captains are focused on moving forward and they are pleased to be involved in the program’s future.
“It’s really showing they care about what we want in a coach and what we think is best for us,” Medvinsky said.
Medvinsky wants a coach that can balance “positive reinforcement” and “competitive spirits.”
“I think we’re looking for a coach that cares and wants us to win, but at the same time is looking out for the players and doing the most they can to not only see us succeed, but be happy and enjoy the sport,” Rubin said.