Posted: 12:34 am Friday, December 5th, 2008

Gardens Principal: Fleury “Not Up to Our Standards” 

By Jason Lieser

Palm Beach Gardens principal Dr. Jon Prince said football coach Kevin Fleury allowed the program to steadily decline after winning the 2005 state championship.

“The first year, everything went right,” Prince said. “Every year after that, there have been more and more things that were not up to our standards. It includes win-loss records, finances, player accountability, and relationships with coaches and community members. It’s all-encompassing.

“Sometimes you just have two different visions and sets of expectations. Sometimes those two things don’t align.”

Including winning the first football title in school history, Fleury went 31-7 in his first three seasons at Palm Beach Gardens. The Gators were 2-8 this year and missed the playoffs for the first time in his tenure.

Athletic director Bill Weed told the Post on Wednesday that Fleury’s firing was not related to coaching ability, a complaint from a player, a rift with superiors or a rules violation. That leaves little else in terms of cause, but Prince declined to give specific reasons for Fleury’s dismissal.

Fleury said he was not given “a straight answer” either, but preferred not to elaborate.

When considering Fleury’s silence, keep in mind he remains employed by the school as a physical education teacher. Fleury intends to keep that job, so it is reasonable to assume he is keeping quiet to avoid further complications at work. Prince said Fleury can keep teaching at the school “as long as he wants.”

Prince praised Fleury’s character and his coaching ability. Prince repeatedly brought up the subjects of budgeting and fundraising, but said those were not the sole reasons for dismissal.

The football program’s finances certainly have been hurt by the lack of a home stadium during on-campus construction, which has forced the Gators to play their home games at Dwyer’s Blum Stadium. Even taking the construction into consideration, Prince said Fleury did not meet the administration’s standards in terms of the total program management.

“It’s such a big job,” Prince said. “Kevin spent a lot of time on the Xs and Os, but we felt it was import to nurture the other facets of being a good football coach.”

Brian Doyen and Al Shipman, both assistants under Fleury, have assumed the lead of the program on an interim basis. Weed expects at least 70 applicants in the search for a new head coach. Doyen and Shipman are likely to be candidates.

To kill one rumor, former Okeechobee coach Chris Branham said he is not interested in the Palm Beach Gardens job. Branham resigned as football coach Nov. 24.

Meanwhile, Fleury’s firing shocked several of his peers, who strongly disapproved of the move.

Seminole Ridge coach Matt Dickmann, a former assistant at Jupiter High School, called the situation “absolutely ridiculous.”

“He’s a great coach that anyone would like to have on his staff,” Dickmann said. “As a head coach, anybody can fire you at any chance just because they don’t like something about you. I think it’s unfortunate, but we all know it’s year-to-year and day-to-day.”

Dwyer coach Jack Daniels, one of Fleury’s chief rivals on the field, said Palm Beach Gardens made “a mistake.”

“I don’t know how you win a state championship three years ago and get fired,” Daniels said. “It seems like a bad deal.”

King’s Academy coach Craig Dobson, who coached with Fleury in the Outback Bowl, was disappointed by the news.

“I was surprised because I saw them on film and I didn’t think they had a lot of athletes on the field,” Dobson said of the 2008 Gators. “And they were in a very tough district.”

Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson, who played Palm Beach Gardens regularly, said he called Fleury on Thursday. When he reached him, Fleury was still working on behalf of his former players to get them into college programs.

“That says a lot for him,” Thompson said. “I thought he was a good coach, good guy.”