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Jacobs Replaced as West Orange Football Coach

Despite supporters objections, West Orange Board of Education hires Jim Matsakis as new high school coach.

Over the objections of almost 200 supporters in attendance Tuesday night, the West Orange Board of Education approved the hiring of a new high school football coach to replace longtime coach John Jacob.

In a 4-1 vote, with board member Ronald Charles dissenting, the board approved the hiring of new head coach Jim Matsakis despite pleas from community members, students and former players for the board to let Jacob retain his job after 10 seasons.

More than a dozen residents offered testimony how the school community sees Jacob as more than a teacher or a coach. The parents and students also demanded transparency from the board why Jacob was removed.

The residents cheered Jacob when he appeared at the meeting and several times throughout when speakers offered public support for him. However, residents did not treat school administrators and board members as kindly when they defended the decision to change coaches. 

After thanking Jacob for providing years of leadership on and off the field and reiterating that he will remain at the school as a physical education teacher, West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore became emotional while he defended himself and interim Superintendent James O’Neill from allegations of corruption.

“I’m not part of a corrupt process,” said Moore. “All [prospective] coaches were made aware of the process… I understand some of you may be disappointed in the outcome. As a new principal, I realize there is no decision that goes without some measure of criticism. I understand that. Coach Jakes did a lot of work here… I didn’t see any indication of [corruption in this process]. I ask that when you have the opportunity to greet our new coach, please do so with open arms.” 

O’Neill tried to clarify the process that went into hiring of the new coach. He said the administration began the interview process with 21 qualified candidates, including Jacob. All candidates were asked the same questions in the first round of interviews.

The field was then cut to 12, where 75 percent of the questions were the same; 25 percent were tailored to the individual based on answers given in the first interview. The field was then cut down to four and the decision to recommend Matsakis to the board was then unanimous. 

“I just wonder how that process could appear to be corrupt,” O’Neill said. “Kids try out for a team, sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t. When coaches apply, they are in a similar competition.”

In 10 seasons Jacob’s sported a 51-49 record, finishing 5–5 last season.

The boy’s lacrosse and the softball coach have also been replaced since O’Neill took over.

Danielle Lewis March 03, 2013 at 08:16 PM
jakes was an awesome coach when I was in high school (2001-2005).. we all loved him on and off the field.. its very very sad to see him not be the head coach anymore ;o(
Gary Englert March 03, 2013 at 08:38 PM
I do believe that Coach Jacobs missed a golden opportunity to underscore what all of his supporters were saying about him...by not taking the microphone at the conclusion of their remarks, thanking them and asking that the school, and the community, rally behind and welcome Coach Matsakis...and help him further the success and legacy of WOHS football.
john anthony prignano March 03, 2013 at 10:02 PM
"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind, and the fool shall be servant to the wise at heart " I agree with Mr. Englert, I hope, as Mr. Englert did, other people will take note of Jacob's behavior. Jacobs does not possess the qualities it takes to do what Englert {and I } are absolutely certain he should have done. Jacobs passing on that golden opportunity and choosing not to speak at that oh so critical moment speaks volumes about his character.
john anthony prignano March 04, 2013 at 01:25 AM
On January 22, 2013 a letter written by Steve Brodsky appeared on Patch. Mr.Brodsky asked people to come out in support of WO Head Football Coach John Jacob. In part, the letter said; "Inasmuch as the application has been inconsistent and shockingly biased for and against certain coaches and programs, there appears to be a nefarious personal agenda at play orchestrated by someone who is determined to oust WO Head Football Coach John Jacob at any cost to satisfy his own personal desires. " About a month later, Jacob wrote a letter about the selection process. In the letter, he says four times that the selection process is very corrupt. Twice he uses the word "premeditated " He accuses someone of lying. He says people are being evasive and not forthcoming, etc. Jim Matsakis was appointed Head Coach. Did Jacob go to the microphone and say something like "The vote has been taken and the process has concluded. It is now time to put aside our feelings and join as one and support our new coach and do all we can to help him and his players and the program be successful. Tonight, I pledge my total support to Coach Matsakis and his players.." Of course not.How much more do people need to see? Jacob does not want Matsakis to be successful, which means he does not want the players and the program to be successful. Jacob is highly regarded by many people. Many students and former students say he will do anything to help them succeed. NOT TRUE BY A LONG SHOT.
john anthony prignano March 04, 2013 at 09:53 PM
PATCH! In the above article you wrote; " In 10 seasons, Jacobs sported a 51 - 49 record,finishing 5 - 5 last season. " The Newark Star Ledger reported Jacobs' record as Head Coach is 51- 49 . In his open letter, John Jacobs said he had been the Head Coach for 10 years. NOT CORRECT. NOT TRUE. Jacobs became the Head Coach of the West Orange Varsity Football Team in 2002. He was the Head Coach for ELEVEN YEARS. His record as Head Coach is 52 - 58, NOT 51 - 49. To repeat, Jacobs served as Head Coach for eleven years, not ten, and his record was 52 - 58, not 51 - 49..

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