Mike Hvizdo: Weston parents and players cry foul over coach’s resignation

Weston High School varsity basketball coach Mike Hvizdo resigned suddenly over what school officials called an “inappropriate” video he made 10 years ago. —Vivian Simons photo

The resignation of Mike Hvizdo as Weston High School’s head boys varsity basketball coach has caused a bit of a stir in the town’s athletic community.

Mr. Hvizdo, who became head coach in 2011, stepped down two weeks ago after it was discovered he had taken part in a short video in 2003 that school officials deemed as “inappropriate for a leader of kids.” He has since been replaced by assistant varsity and head JV coach Jamaal Gibbs.

Athletic Director Mark Berkowitz, Superintendent Colleen Palmer, Principal Lisa Wolak and Human Resources Director Lewis Brey met with Mr. Hvizdo on Feb. 7 about the situation. After discussing the matter, they decided it was best for Mr. Hvizdo to step down. Later that day, he announced to his team that he was resigning for personal reasons.

Basketball coach Mike Hvizdo and player. —Vivian Simons photo

A letter by Mr. Berkowitz and Ms. Wolak to basketball players and parents, dated Feb. 10, mentioned the existence of the film, a nine-minute comedy short that appeared online. Mr. Berkowitz stressed the film involves “no illegal activity.”

Mr. Berkowitz and Ms. Wolak said in the letter that the existence of the video “became known” to the school community. A general consensus among the school basketball community was that a parent brought the issue to the school’s attention.

“Unfortunately, material posted on the Internet takes on a life of its own, and there is no way to guarantee that this video will not be viewed by our entire community and most importantly, by our student athletes, now and into the future,” wrote Mr. Berkowitz and Ms. Wolak. “We know that the film has already been viewed by some in our community.”

The letter continued, “The existence of this film compromises Mr. Hvizdo’s ability to continue to serve as a coach with Weston High School. Current and future athletes are influenced by the actions and words of our coaches — both formally and informally. Our role as educators is to ensure a psychologically-safe and emotionally-healthy environment for our students at all times; it is our legal and ethical responsibility. Unfortunately, this goal can no longer be achieved with the continuation of Mr. Hvizdo as our varsity basketball coach.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Hvizdo said he plans to release a formal statement, but had no comment at this time.

Unhappy parents

Some parents, however, are not happy with how the administration handled the situation. About 50 attended a nearly three-hour meeting with school administrators on Feb. 11 to get an explanation and to voice their concerns. All the parents, including Jess and Andrea DiPasquale, said they supported Mr. Hvizdo.

“He is an excellent coach,” said Mr. DiPasquale, whose son Charlie is the lone senior on the team. “He was an excellent leader. He was a good motivator for the team.”

Mr. DiPasquale referred to the video, titled “Forbidden Fruit,” as a “comedy with a raunchy theme” that was not pornographic and contained no nudity.

Coach Mike Hvizdo congratulates opponents after a Weston boys varsity basketball game. —Vivian Simons photo

He, as well as other parents, did not agree with the administration’s position that the film would compromise Mr. Hvizdo’s ability to lead the players. They also felt their viewpoint was not taken into consideration and any actions taken could have waited until after the season was completed.

“He [Mr. Hvizdo] did not feel he was not able to coach effectively,” said Ms. DiPasquale. “That’s not the case at all.”

Although her son graduated from Weston High last year, Vivian Simons still attends games to take photographs. She recalled how much Mr. Hvizdo cared about his players.

“If the kids needed to go visit grandma, study for an important test, or go on a college visit, he would not give them a hard time,” she said. “I have to say that last year when he spoke about all the senior basketball players at the end of the year banquet, it was so obvious what a great guy he is and how much he cares about each player. I felt that the kids were so very lucky to have him as a coach and mentor.”

According to Jonathan Bombart, who also has a son on the team, Mr. Hvizdo’s dedication to the team carried over well into the off-season. Many players took part in summer basketball leagues and Mr. Hvizdo would often watch these games.

“He was really good for the kids,” said Mr. Bombart. “He taught them great life lessons. The kids loved him.”

Mr. Hvizdo would also offer his coaching talents outside of the high school team. He and head girls varsity coach Dan Rosen ran a clinic for coaches in Weston’s youth basketball program.

“Coach Hvizdo is very supportive of our efforts,” said David Levy, whose son plays youth basketball in town. “He definitely has his heart in the right place.”

Moving forward

Despite having to deal with the resignation of its coach, the varsity team has still managed to move forward, winning two of its last three games. A 57-51 victory over Newtown on Feb. 7, played only hours after their coach announced his resignation, qualified the Trojans for a spot in the state Class M tournament for the second straight year.

“Every day he was so dedicated to our team,” said Charlie DiPasquale, one of the team captains. “He was happy to come out and coach us. He cared about us as people.”

While the players miss their former coach, they know they are at a critical point of their season. With one more game left to play, Weston still has a shot at qualifying for a spot in the South-West Conference playoffs for the second straight year as well.

“I’ve been trying to keep the team focused and motivated,” said Charlie. “All the players respect and support coach Hvizdo. We believe he should be reinstated.”

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  • David

    For most student-athletes, high school sports are the last time they will be on a team in an organized sport, with uniforms, locker rooms, road trips, cheerleaders and the chance to play in a gymnasium or on a field in front of a crowd of cheering fans. The entire experience is unique. And the coach is a big part of that experience.

    I come from a basketball family–we have coached and competed at the highest levels of the sport–and over the years we have had the good fortune of playing for and knowing several coaches now enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame. These coaches all share a few key attributes: They all care about their players as people not just as Xs and Os on a chalk board; have personal integrity and strong work ethic;s respect their teams enough to push them to be better than they are…and know a thing or two about how to teach the sport.

    A coach like that can push your kids to heights he or she had never imagined. A coach like that will have a positive impact on your kids for the rest of their lives. When a community finds a coach like that, it should hold on to him or her. And if you find one that lives in the area, has just begun a family and intends to commit to your school for the long term, you have truly lucked out.

    Mike Hvizdo was becoming such a coach. It is a shame that school officials “decided that it was best for Hvizdo to step down,” particularly since it would appear that the vast majority of the parents supported him. What kind of community do we live in that we would discard this caring, passionate family man in a hasty decision because of a relatively benign 9-minute short film he made ten years ago? What coach would want to work in such an environment?

    The decision was short-sighted. For the sake of our high school student athletes I hope that Weston can attract and retain top-notch coaches in the future.

  • WHSAlum

    I am a huge fan of both Coach Viz and the current administration, but I must say that I’m incredibly disappointed in how this situation was handled by the latter in this case. Typical 21st century “crisis” control – anger the masses in order to appease the one parent who dredged up this video because they held an irrational grudge. We’re talking about a HARMLESS, TEN YEAR OLD VIDEO that was probably made while Mike was in college, and now you’re penalizing him for it for the rest of his life. Shameful stuff.

  • harpo

    Cases like this evoke strong feelings.

    There are however some inaccuracies in this article. First, it’s an exaggeration to say that 50 parents attended the meeting held by the administration. The paper had no one there and clearly only talked to a small number of parents who were coach supporters.

    There were parents in the meeting from at most half the high school basketball families. Some of these people supported the administration’s actions. Also, this coach has a history of yelling and screaming at kids in a nasty abusive fashion. I know someone who said he also did this in Wilton.

    Now regarding the film that the coach did in his previous work as an actor, the school’s letter to parents said this:


    • grouchos

      The article says about 50 people – which there were more.

      You think at most half the high school basketball families were represented? There are 28 families and well more than 14 were there.

      The group of Viz supporters is greater than the few or the one who submitted the video.

      Nobody in the audience vocally supported their decision.

      Either you weren’t there or didn’t speak up. The paper didn’t get your point of view because it wasn’t given at the meeting.

      • harpo

        Were numerous people at meeting who supported admin but were intimidated to speak up due to the rude, lynch mob mentality of some present.

        Decision isn’t based upon popular vote anyway.

  • harpo

    Here’s the key quote from the letter to the parents which was left out of the article:


  • harpo

    Third try on the key quote!

    “This film is vulgar, contains offensive sexual language, and depicts sexual acts among multiple partners in which Mr. Hvizdo is a participant.”

  • BasketballDude

    Wow. Another example of administrators not getting what is important. As a former college basketball player (I grew up in Weston and moved to NJ after Middle School) I have to echo David’s comments above. I am only aware of this situation because a good friend of mine coaches in the Middle School level and told me what a great job coach Hvizdo is doing…I just think this is an example of what the internet generation is going to have to deal with in their professional life. Our society as a whole is pulling back the curtains. We share ourselves publicly more frequently and at greater depth than ever before, so we as a society have to adjust our expectations of what our public leaders are expected to do. Everyone got drunk in college– now those pictures are on the internet. Everyone has said something offensive, now, maybe you did it as a comedic actor in an online short video. The thing that matters here is context and this sends the wrong message to kids which is “if you ever think that you’d like to be in a leadership position or in a public position, then don’t ever step outside the box or try anything creative.” Every person who thought it was a good idea to have this young, talented, upcoming coach step down should take a look at what this sends as a message to the kids here. This is a terrible message to kids who might want to do something creative, or express themselves…I know Weston is filled with smart people but this is one of the dumbest things that a school system could do.

  • bbfan

    This is just another example of how parents are out of control when it comes to Youth Sports. One parent doesn’t like what Mike was doing with his son either position or PLAYING TIME and he finds a movie which is rated R…and I’m sure all the players on his team have seen a R rated movie…runs with it to the Principle and Superintendant and force him to resign. We have Parents being ejected out of High School Basketball games on a regular basis, fighting with other parents on the opposing team…when will we put an end to this?

    The people of Weston do not deserve a coach of Mike’s caliber or any other coach who will not get the full support from the administration. They should just go get a Math teacher who wants the pay check and will play equal playing time so that all the parents will be happy….or let the parents coach the team on a rotating basis.

    Mike will be a great coach going forward either at the High School or College level and the people of Weston had one that got away.

    And by the way…people who rush to make judgement on a person should make sure they have no skeletons in their own closet….I happen to be from Monroe!!

  • hoopswag

    I’m a father of two kids in the Wilton program, have heard nothing but positive things about him from the players and parents. Viz has worked with my kids and made them better players and better people. He can coach my kids anytime.

    Sounds like this whole thing was drummed up by a parent pissed at their kids playing time…. (sorry I said the word pissed, please don’t tell on me).

  • hoopfan

    My son played for Viz at Wilton High as well. Viz played the kids who deserved to play based on their ability and effort. His teams always played hard and were always competitive. And he clearly cared about the kids.

    When allowed to coach again, Viz will be very effective. Hopefully, sounder minds will prevail at Weston High and he can return to do so there.

  • David

    If a coach shoves or hits or otherwise uses physical force on a player, that’s out of bounds and grounds for reprimand if not immediate dismissal. If a coach demeans a player by using offensive language (e.g., racist language, jokes about masculinity or femininity), that too is out of bounds, and grounds for reprimand if not immediate dismissal.

    But coaches “yelling and screaming” can’t be against the rules, particularly at the high school level and in practice. That’s how you get your point across. That’s how you test your players. Some coaches do it more than others, for sure, but that’s a style issue. Only coach I’ve ever heard of that didn’t yell was John Wooden, and I’ll bet if you ask his players they’ll tell you that he raised his voice a few times.

    By the way, I was impressed with how LITTLE Coach Vizdo yelled during games

    When my parents had a problem with any of the dozens of coaches that my brother, sister and I had over the years, do you know what they did?


    Not a thing. No phone calls. No emails.

    The lesson they were teaching us was “Listen to your coaches. Learn how to deal with authority. In life, you will have to listen to and work with people you may not like, so deal with it.”

  • AreaCoach7


    The real problem in situations like this is that these parents aren’t labeled for what they are: sociopaths. We can’t keep them from raising children, since you don’t need a license for that. But the better person, who from (almost) all accounts cares deeply about the students he leads, lost here. And the known parental cancer claimed a victim for his ego, and set a dangerously bad example for his own children in life. That the school enabled the outcome over something borderline troubling (at best) is unfortunate.

  • leonidas912

    Salem Redux. How does something like this happen in 2013? It’s embarrassing and shameful. The antiquated sensibilities, the kowtowing to self-important parents, the ambush that led to this poor guy’s “voluntary” resignation – these administrators should take a good look at themselves and try to figure out a few things: why they acted so hastily, who they are appeasing, who they are protecting and from what exactly, et cetera. It’s all so ridiculous; farcical. “In the world of education, our leaders are held to higher standards than other walks of life.” But not, evidently, our administrators. /REMOVED/ I hope they are forced by public outcry to do a 360, apologize in writing, and beg Coach Viz to take his job back; moreover, I hope he respectfully declines and files a lawsuit. Also, I hope Rajon Rondo averages a triple-double next year.

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