Boys Basketball – Klatt Out at Mater Dei, Former Hurley Assistant Rumored to be Replacement
Bob Klatt - the head boys basketball coach at Mater Dei for the last 18 years - said Wednesday he was informed he is no longer the head coach of the program after a meeting Wednesday morning with athletic director Dennis Tobin, and multiple sources who asked to remain anonymous have indicated the school is preparing to hire former Cardinal McCarrick coach Ben Gamble as its next head coach.
More than one source said that the Gamble hire was a "done deal," although Gamble said Wednesday that although he had been in contact with Mater Dei, he had not reached a decision. He said he expects to decide on his next move on Thursday.
Tobin said no decision was imminent on the coaching front and that neither he nor the newly-formed board of trustees has a specific timetable to make a hire.
"We are not going to publicly discuss any inquiries into the position," Tobin said. "Anything pertaining to the process of filling the position will be done internally and will be announced at the appropriate time."
Klatt said Tobin indicated the board of trustees, which was formed to govern the school in the wake of its near-closing this past year, made the decision to make the change. Mater Dei is reopening as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the board is tasked with overseeing its finances. The school was previously run by St. Mary's Parish.
"I had to ask him to repeat himself, because I almost had to hear it a second time to believe it," Klatt said of his meeting with Tobin. "But he told me I was no longer the coach at Mater Dei and that was pretty much it. The meeting lasted no longer than two minutes."
"We wish Bob nothing but the best going forward," Tobin said. "He was a big part of the program, the (athletic) department and the Mater Dei community for a long time."
Tobin did not comment on the decision-making process that led to Klatt's dismissal, instead deferring to Klatt.
"The board decided to move the program in a different direction, and that's what I told (Klatt)," Tobin said.
Gamble, meanwhile, was an assistant under Bob Hurley at St. Anthony's for 15 seasons prior to taking over at McCarrick in the spring of 2014. This past school year was the last for the South Amboy school, which is shutting its doors for good because of financial hardship.
McCarrick's closing leaves a large percentage of the Eagles' 2014-15 basketball roster without a high school team for next season, and a landing spot for Gamble would make for a logical landing spot for many of his former players. The Eagles went 21-5 after a 19-0 start to the season in Gamble's first year, which included a 62-61 victory at Christian Brothers Academy. Three of McCarrick's four top scorers from a year ago are eligible to play high school basketball again in 2015-16.
Gamble was the fourth head coach in four years at Cardinal McCarrick after taking over a program that lost a combined 33 games in the two seasons prior to his hire. He also played for Hurley at St. Anthony in the 1980's.
Klatt recalled a number of Cardinal McCarrick athletes coming to visit the Mater Dei campus upon hearing the news that their school was closing.
"We thought it could be a mutually beneficial thing," Klatt said. "We had just been through what they were going through so we were thinking it would be good to get more kids coming to Mater Dei and they would have some place to go."
Klatt is a Mater Dei alumus who took over the head basketball job at the age of 27. His team was in-season when it was announced that Mater Dei would close its doors at the end of the year, only to have a co-op of students and alumni raise more than $1 million to cover the school's operating deficit and keep it open for at least another year.
"It hurts when you spend 18 years at a place, especially when you went to school there," Klatt said. "We spent four months raising money and telling kids not to give up on this place yet, and when we raise the money and keep the school open only to have the board tell you 'your services are no longer needed,' yeah, that's tough."
The news of Klatt's dismissal comes within a week of Mater Dei hiring Shannon Hoadley as the new head football coach. Hoadley is a 1989 graduate of Mater Dei and was an assistant in the program since 2008.
“Coach Hoadley’s commitment to Mater Dei Prep has been second to none,'' Tobin said in a news release on the hiring. "He understands our community and has a great rapport with our students. Shannon is a known entity in the world of Shore Conference football. He has built relationships that will foster the improvement of Mater Dei Prep football."
Klatt is a teacher at St. John Vianney and says he plans to continue coaching in whatever capacity he can, which he said would begin with a travel soccer game that his daughter was playing on Wednesday night.
"Coaching is in my blood," Klatt said. "I still have that burning desire to coach and there's no doubt in my mind I'll coach again."