John Dzik

Letters Sent by Alums and Friends: 
Letters Main > Michael Bennett, Class of 1982

Antoinette Iadarola
Cabrini College
610 King of Prussia Road
Radnor, PA 19807

February 15, 2005

Dear Dr. Iadarola:

I am writing this letter in response to your decision to terminate John Dzik's contract as the varsity men's basketball coach at Cabrini College. Being a member of John's first team and having a personal relationship with he and his family for the past twenty-five years, I have found it difficult to wrap up so many years and memories into a poignant letter, but know this is important for the support of a true friend.

Upon transferring to Cabrini College in 1979, I was blessed to have the opportunity to spend my first year under the tutelage of Dr. Jolyon Girard. Dr. Girard was an engaging professor, but as a basketball coach he was the epitome of integrity and class and demanded that his players carry themselves that way as well. Having spent a year playing college basketball at Greensboro College in Greensboro, North Carolina I almost gave up the sport I loved because of a coach whom cared little if at all for his student- athletes and sometimes implored almost barbaric tactics to feed his bloated sense of self- worth. A young man could not have two better mentors than Doc and John.

During the summer of 1980 when we received letters that John Dzik would be the new Head Coach at Cabrini College, as young men we did not know what to think. We joked about the `ZEEK' name and what kind of coach would leave Widener and Saint Joseph's to come coach at a little school like ours. We soon found out what type of "man" we would have as a coach. That first summer John organized a basketball outing to bring together the returning players and the new players that would be attending Cabrini College. During that outing John established a sense of family that would become the foundation for everything that exists today.

When I came to Cabrini College I was not looking for a role model, mentor or father figure in a basketball coach. My parents will celebrate their fiftieth (50th) wedding anniversary on July 9, 2005, so I had all the role models I needed prior to ever enrolling at Cabrini College. However, what I soon discovered was John Dzik took a personal stake in nurturing and developing the young men that parents had entrusted to his leadership. When I achieved scholastically, he was one of the first to congratulate me on my success, likewise when I made an ill-advised decision he was the first to chastise me. I can still hear him saying "What were you thinking?" and when I replied, "I guess I wasn't" he would say "exactly." Soon after he would relate how he was counting on me to show the way for the younger players and that the example I set would go a longer way in their development than what he would be able to do. How untrue, but the compassionate way in which John has always related to his young men.

I would like to relate two incidents that will speak all that need be said concerning John's character and his influence on countless young people. The most recent incident involves the marriage of Jana Bruno ('96) and Eric Tidwell ('96) on May 29, 2004. As a 1982 graduate of Cabrini College, I would venture to guess that there are virtually no alumni who have forged deep meaningful friendships with graduates that are fourteen (14) years their junior. My wife and I have attended numerous weddings of young people that were a part of the Cabrini College men's basketball family, which John Dzik created. These young people have become a part of our family just as my peers with whom I graduated. We all share ours joys of marriage, child rearing and personal and professional triumphs and disappointments.

My second incident is one that is near and dear to my wife and I. I happened to be one of the last members of my Cabrini peer group to get married. After attending seven or eight weddings of former teammates and sharing that experience with John and the assistant coaches I was really looking forward to our wedding day in October 1994. It turned out that John and the assistant coaches would be away at a golf outing during the time of our wedding. They departed the Thursday before our Saturday wedding. I was disappointed but understood. I cannot say I was totally surprised, but John, Mike Keely and Joe Kelly flew back for our wedding and danced the night away at our reception. I knew it long before then, but that day I knew how blessed I had been as a player, but more importantly that I had found lifelong friends. I could go on and on about things they have done to honor my children and other alums but that would take more time than either you or I have to address this matter.

Over the years I have attended various Cabrini events including Alumni Weekend, Class Reunions and Kite Day to name a few. The number of alumni that return for these events has been average at best. The alumni basketball game of February 5, 2005 was a tremendous outpouring of love from alumni of the men's and women's basketball teams, students and friends and the attendance was fantastic. Your refusal to acknowledge the alumni with your presence could be construed as nothing more than a slight. It seems that the word "angry" has been bandied about with administrators on occasion, but your actions speak a total lack of respect for alumni whom love John Dzik and Cabrini College. How you could turn your back on financial supporting alumni that will be your core constituency in a few years will be something that you will have to rectify within at some point. Once the percentage of alumni giving decreases dramatically those corporate friends will no longer have their purse strings open as they do now. Fifty years is not a long time for an educational institution to exist and represents an even shorter period to acquire representative financial support of alumni that is so important when soliciting private and corporate financial support. If your plan is to leave Cabrini College in a short period of time, you have no immediate concern. However, should your plan remain long- range you must consider the impact of dismissing twenty-five (25) years of alum that will take such an act of betrayal as reason to show their financial support to other causes that they can feel good about in the end.

A part of me is very hurt because John has been a tireless supporter of an overnight basketball camp that a childhood friend and myself run for disadvantaged boys and girls between the ages of 10-18 years. Had I known that John was being forced to use personal and/or vacation time to spend time with us the third week in August the past six years, I would have told him we would work out something else. However, John being himself, he simply saw an opportunity to interact with young people and impact their lives in a positive manner. He would have come to support our camp and myself because he understands that we have found a way to give back and share with young people who may otherwise not get the opportunity we present to them. When I thought about walking away from the camp for a year to digest whether the kids were committed to what we were trying to provide them, John was the one who told me that if they appear disinterested, yet continue to come back that means that you are having an impact and that is all that you can ask. Every year on the first day of camp I am besieged by campers wanting to know which day Coach Dzik is coming up to talk to them. Does that sound like someone who is out of touch with today's youth?

I believe you to be a bold leader and you have done good things for Cabrini College, but in this instance you are DEAD WRONG! Your letter of response regarding the decision to terminate John's contract is one of misinformation and reads as a real testimony of being out of touch of what John Dzik means to Cabrini College. I have read many offerings from you over the years, but felt embarrassed for you in not knowing that your `hired pen' expressed you thoughts with such utter ignorance of what has transpired with men's basketball, athletics and the general student body with John Dzik over the past twenty-five years. The only person I know whom has walked this earth and been perfect, is our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no shame in admitting one's mistake, but shame in watching a mistake tear at the very fabric of what you espouse to represent.

We the ALUMNI, long standing STAFF, ALUMNI FAMILIES and FRIENDS are Cabrini College. Those of us, who have toiled, sacrificed and bled blue and white are what the upcoming golden anniversary is all about. All of the new structures are fantastic, but if no one is there to roam the halls it is meaningless. You can show tremendous leadership by rescinding your ultimate decision or continue the destructible course you have taken and see how badly you have miscalculated the bond that those of us who love John Dzik really share.

I want my family and I to remain a part of the Cabrini College family, but will find that almost impossible with the termination of John Dzik as basketball coach other than an occasional visit to see some of my old professor friends. I have been a staunch advocate for minority alumni and their involvement in Cabrini College. I would have hoped that after twenty-six years that Cabrini College would strive to promote an atmosphere of `inclusion and diversity' for students and administrators. But the more I see and read, I can see that in 2005 we are only shading the same obstinate behavior that has been a part of Cabrini College administration history with different colored shades.

Attached you will find some documentation that depicts the values that John Dzik brought to Cabrini College twenty five years ago as a twenty nine (29) year old Head Coach. Though John has aged his values and moral compass have been unwavering. That is more than I can say for the current direction that you have decided to take as the President of Cabrini College. Please do not destroy the institution that we all hold so near and dear to our hearts. You and you alone hold the key to how your legacy will read amongst twenty-five years of alumni. WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE?


Michael R. Bennett

Class of 1982

President/Founder Interactive Children's Access Network (I.C.A.N.)

MVP Men's Basketball Cabrini College 1981
Former Member Cabrini College Alumni Diversity Council

cc: Ms. Robin Moll, VP for Institutional Advancement . Dr. Christine Lysionek, VP for Student Development