Dan Sargent
Dan Sargent

About three weeks ago, a little more than three months after he guided the Tyngsboro High School girls basketball team all the way to the Division 3 Central final at WPI, Dan Sargent was informed he would not be returning as the team's head coach.

The 32-year-old Sargent, who also teaches at the Robinson Middle School in Lowell, sat down for a meeting with Tyngsboro Athletic Director Ann Palumbo. He expected the annual meeting to run smoothly. After all, he guided the Tigers to a 19-5 record and their fifth straight winning season in five years at the helm. He also had concluded a spring season as THS' junior varsity baseball coach.

Instead, Sargent says he got negative feedback. He was criticized for his sideline demeanor and also for doing an inadequate job of building the Tyngsboro High girls basketball program at all levels. He also said he received some blame for the fact that some players weren't sticking with the program for a full four years.

"Then (Palumbo) said they were going in a different direction, and my jaw just about hit the floor. It was shocking," said Sargent during a Tuesday afternoon phone conversation. "People hear that I was let go and they think I did something wrong, but I don't have a story like that."

When reached by phone on Tuesday morning, Palumbo declined to comment on the situation and said other members of the administration would do the same.


Advertisement

Since Sargent was let go late last month, people could only speculate why a young, successful coach wouldn't be returning. Sargent decided it was time to clear the air for his own good.

"When it first happened, upset players and parents approached me about going to the school committee or the newspaper and I said, 'I'm not sure what I want to get myself into here,' " said Sargent, who resides in Dorchester. "But then the more I thought about it, what if I want to apply for a new job? I should just tell my side."

Sargent received lots of support from players, parents and colleagues, many of whom took to Twitter.

Longtime successful Tyngsboro and area basketball coach Mike Crowley tweeted on June 21, "What a travesty Dan Sargent Tyngsboro girls b-ball coach let go after taking team to cmass finals. A great coach and even better person. Another example of administration caving to (parents)."

Former Tyngsboro player Paige MacNeill tweeted on June 22, "Each and everyone of us succeeded because of Dan Sargent. I am hurt and appalled that Tyngsboro High made such a rash decision."

Sargent says he received at least 25 supportive letters from former and current players. And last week, a parent who wanted to remain anonymous called The Sun's sports department to voice displeasure with the decision to let Sargent go.

"(Palumbo) thought my sideline demeanor looked bad to people watching from afar, even though she knew I was just coaching," said Sargent. "I'd stomp on the floor in frustration here and there. I know when I first started coaching I might've been a little too much, but I reined it in and was a lot calmer.

"We had a couple disagreements over the season, but nothing big. There was an eighth grader who I thought was good enough to be playing on varsity and we got a waiver for her because our roster was small. The administration almost kind of tried to block that. They were concerned that sophomores were being passed over. So (Palumbo) said, 'Let's let her prove herself on JV and then maybe bring her up. She dominated at the JV level. And then the administration would say, 'Well, you haven't really given player X, Y or Z a chance.' And I'd say, 'That's not true. Yes, I have.' I work with these players every day at practice, I know who is earning playing time.

"The majority of our conversations were very calm. I always thought I had a decent relationship with Annie, I thought we got along well."

In his five years at Tyngsboro, Sargent compiled a record of 77-37 and made three Central Mass. finals. He admits he was a demanding coach.

"I know I coached the kids hard, but they always expressed appreciation. They appreciated the time I put in," said Sargent. "We had a great run. My first two years I felt we'd be pretty good. This last year I didn't know what we had. We had some kids who didn't get along super great, but then we all meshed and it was a great year. They were all fighting for me to stay.

"I don't know why they waited three months to make this decision. I set up a youth camp and the summer league, and I did work on the schedule -- the administration worked with me on all that. And then that was it."

Sargent says he'd like to coach basketball somewhere next winter.

Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone