By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — The head basketball coach at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School has resigned following an investigation into a fight involving unsupervised students.
Tom Sipsey, coach at the school since 2009 and a recipient of a Massachusetts Basketball Coach of the Year award, resigned effective immediately, William DeRosa, superintendent of Whittier Tech, announced yesterday in a statement.
"After a recent practice, two students were involved in an altercation," DeRosa said in the statement. "This did not take place in the presence of Mr. Sipsey or any other school employees, but after the district began an investigation into the incident, and following discussion among the parties, Mr. Sipsey has elected to resign as head coach."
The basketball season is just starting and the team will be coached on a temporary basis by Joe Boland, a longtime varsity baseball coach and guidance counselor at the school.
DeRosa told the The Eagle-Tribune that there were consequences for the students involved, but that on the advice of legal counsel he would not say if any students were suspended and would not comment on the details of the altercation.
DeRosa said Sipsey, who is Assistant Director of Admissions at Central Catholic High School, has been "a valued member of the Whittier Tech community since October 2009."
"Beyond wins and losses and beyond being named Massachusetts Basketball Coach of the Year by the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association, the fact is that Tom performed wonderfully for our students during the four years of his tenure," DeRosa said. "He made sure that each of his players was academically responsible before they were allowed to represent Whittier on the basketball court. He raised expectations for his players in every area and insisted that they be good citizens of the Whittier community and we very much appreciated that."
The statement also included comments from Sipsey, a onetime Central Catholic and Merrimack College standout on the court.
"I feel badly that some people might judge all the wonderful young men who played for me by this one unfortunate incident," Sipsey said in the statement. "The student athletes at Whittier Tech have proven to me time and time again to be a determined and resilient group of young people with a tremendous amount of dedication and passion for the game of basketball."
"My student athletes possessed the qualities of compassion, integrity, honesty, loyalty and a desire to succeed regardless of obstacles and challenges," Sipsey said. "I hope I helped them learn these very important lessons. I know that they understood my expectations. I have created relationships at Whittier Tech with players, coaches, teachers and administrators that I hope and trust will last a lifetime."
"The love and support that was shown to my players and to my program is something I will always remember," Sipsey added. "I respect the honesty with which Whittier’s administration has approached this episode. However, in the end I have reached the decision that it is time for me to move on."
Whittier intends to post the position of basketball coach immediately, officials said.