WARREN - The speculation proved accurate Wednesday when John F. Kennedy High School boys' basketball coach Shawn Pompelia learned that his contract won't be renewed.
Randy Rair, assistant superintendent of the Youngstown Diocese, confirmed last week that Pompelia's contract was under annual review. The fact that the process wasn't rubber-stamped was an indication there were issues complicating the process.
Neither Rair nor Brian Sinchak, president at Kennedy, gave specifics. It's believed that concerns among some parents about Pompelia's practice habits were among the issues.
"In a nutshell, you walk into John F. Kennedy and it says, 'We Are Kennedy. We Are Family,' " Pompelia said. "What we tried to do was instill family values into the team, and that required tough love. Were there times that I pushed the envelope in practice and said some things? Yes. I'm not denying my love and respect for the players we have on and off the court."
Rair pointed to "philosophical reasons" for the decision. He said it would be inaccurate to say it was based on practice habits or the influence of parents.
"For the best interests of the program, we thought it was best for everyone that we start fresh," Rair said. "We thank Shawn for his years of commitment to the school and his love for Kennedy kids. Sometimes there are differences of opinion as to philosophy and we decided to make a change. It was a tough decision that had to be made, but we felt it was the best decision for the school."
This is the second time that Pompelia, a 1982 graduate of Kennedy, hasn't had his contract renewed. He was let go after the 2006-07 season for an issue that had nothing to do with practice habits and was replaced by Bruce Timko. The Eagles had a combined 47-21 record in the three seasons prior to the 2007-08 season.
Pompelia noted that when he returned as coach in 2010 the program had just 14 players on the roster. He anticipates 20 or 21 players returning next season, including nine from the junior class. Those numbers don't include a large freshmen class that could push the total to near 30.
Pompelia is clearly upset that he won't have an opportunity to coach the Eagles next season.
"This is the second time we've laid the foundation for a successful program, and not being able to see it through is very disappointing," Pompelia said. "I wish these young men the best. I'll be rooting for them, and I know my staff will be rooting for them."
The Diocese's decision further highlights a problem with stability among the coaching staffs of all sports at Kennedy. Football coach Dave Pappada's contract wasn't renewed after last season, paving the way for the naming of Jeff Bayuk as coach.
In addition, Kennedy has changed head coaches in girls' basketball, track and field and volleyball in recent years. On the administrative side, Vince Lyons, hired as assistant to the president for athletic development for the start of the 2013-14 school year, was let go in February and will be replaced by Dan Kopp, director of football operations at Youngstown State University.
"Stability is good," Rair said. "That being said, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. At the end of the day, we have to make decisions we think are best for the institution as a whole and not worry about how things are going to be perceived and how they look."
The latest decision doesn't look good in the eyes of Pompelia, whose ties to Kennedy date back to long before he graduated from high school.
"Beating someone up through this process is not the road I want to go down," Pompelia said. "Am I hurt? Yes. But I do wish the young men to be successful. I think they're going to be a great club next year."