PAWTUCKET â As interim athletic director for St. Raphael Academy, Fred Saunders is being called upon to guide the department while the search to replace Bruce Gammell takes place. The void was created following Gammellâs resignation late last month.
Gammellâs decision to relocate to Florida was viewed in some corners as curious, given that fall high school sports were set to start. For his last official act before leaving, Gammell, who also taught at St. Raphael, recommended to the administration that Saunders be hired in the meantime.
Saunders is presently the head coach for the girlsâ varsity basketball program at SRA.
âI think I was just as shocked as all the other coaches here when I got the call stating that (Gammell) was moving on,â said Saunders while sitting in the athletic directorâs office that overlooks the basketball court inside the Wellness Center Tuesday afternoon. âBruce had called me up to tell that he had recommended me for the job to the principal. I told him I was honored and said that I would be right down.â
The âinterimâ tag may be, in itself, interim. Saunders has a deal in place that expires on Dec. 1, though he figures to be a strong candidate to fill the position permanently.
School Principal/ President Maryann Donohue-Lynch told Blackstone Valley Sports that the process of finding Gammellâs replacement will begin in earnest this Friday, which is when she plans to announce the five-person search committee handpicked by her.
Saunders has already indicated that he would want to remain in the capacity he has grown to have a greater appreciation for since being appointed.
âI am in contention for this job,â Saunders confirmed. âI love this community and have been coaching here for several years and am very familiar with the temperaments of the school, so I would certainly like to be the athletic director.
âUnder the interim title, Iâm actually seeing athletics from a different point of view,â Saunders continued. âMaking sure whoâs eligible and whoâs not along with the administrative work that goes along with this job, those are things I was able to adjust very quickly to. Iâve been trying to make this position very organized so I do not neglect some of my other responsibilities such as coach.â
As an interim Saunders is considered a part-time employee. Heâs limited to five hours per day but itâs not uncommon to see him dedicate more time to the role.
âIâll get here at 10:30 in morning and leave around 4:30,â Saunders said. âThere are just so many things going on.â
Interacting with the parents of players is an area Saunders is well-schooled in, being a veteran coach. Nowadays those same ears are extended to all of the parents who have a child playing sports at St. Raphael, be it at the varsity or junior varsity level. Thatâs fine as Saunders stressed the importance of keeping things business as usual on Walcott Street.
âOne thing that I think the school did a really good job is making the change as seamless as possible, given the circumstances,â said Saunders, who coached girlsâ basketball at La Salle Academy prior to arriving at SRA. âMaryann has done a great job in leading us through this transition period and Iâve been here to lend a hand and doing the best I can with whatever she needs. Sheâs a hands-on principal so Iâm in contact with her daily.â
Saunders hasnât yet had to deal with the myriad of responsibilities that come with making sure a schoolâs home football game goes off without a hitch, though he catch a glimpse of what to expect after stopping by last Fridayâs St. Raphael-Tolman game at Pariseau Field. SRAâs first official home game at Pariseau is Saturday, Oct. 1 against Woonsocket.
âThat gave me an idea of what to expect,â Saunders said.
If Saunders had his druthers, he would remain coaching the girlsâ hoops team besides serving as athletic director. That, however, wonât be a decision made by him alone.
âI know I can do both, so if the school allows me to do both, I will certainly do both to the best of my ability,â he said.
In the meantime he will continue to oversee SRA athletics. Saunders is planning to attend the Interscholastic League-sponsored Athletic Directorsâ Workshop thatâs scheduled for Friday at Johnson & Wales.
âIâm here and Iâm applying for the job,â Saunders said, âbut if I donât get it I will see that whoever does get it has a seamless transition as well.â