It’s been a crazy, topsy-turvy offseason for high school football programs and coaches. And we’re barely halfway through January.
Big names, small names, big programs, little programs… no one, it seems, is immune from the bug that has plagued our regional coaches’ psyches.
The reasons have varied: Many “want to spend more time with their families,” or just have too much responsibility to keep up with the rigorous demands it takes to be successful. Some were fired, or about to be fired, or thought they might be fired. Others just felt, “it was time.”
Whatever the reason, there are immense vacuums to be filled across our fair state. And they just keep coming.
So with the latest bombshell news of Craig Bruno jumping Bunnell for Naugatuck, we here at football central felt it was time to take stock of what we know and don’t know about the many vacancies across Connecticut.
Let’s recap all of the movement madness, shall we?
Update: We’ve added Wilby, Bacon Academy, East Lyme, Ellington/Somers, Old Saybrook/Westbrook and Woodstock Academy. Whew. Anyone else?
May 21: Cheshire
The first casualty was actually last offseason when longtime Cheshire coach Mark Ecke resigned, apparently under pressure, following an incident at a Glastonbury High School lacrosse game.
The interim coach, Don Drust, got the job full-time on November 30 after coaching the Rams to a 6-4 record.
August 3: Wilby (added)
Just before fall practices began, Pat Russo resigned at Wilby unexpectedly after coaching one season. Russo told the Republican-American that he decided to leave to coach is two sons in youth football.
Gino Capuano, a business teacher at the school, took over as interim coach, saying he hoped “I am the head coach until the day I retire as a teacher.” He guided the Wildcats went 5-5 in the NVL this season.
As of January, Capuano remains the interim coach.
August 24: Naugatuck
Naugatuck lost its head coach Rob Plasky in August stemming from a scheme to get Sacred Heart receiver and then-Boston College commit David Coggins and a few of his teammates to Naugatuck. Assistant Shawn Kuczenski took over as head coach and took the team to a 6-4 record.
The job was posted shortly after the season concluded. (More on this later).
October 3: St. Bernard/Norwich Tech
Just a few weeks into the 2012 season, Scott Cook was told to resign or be fired as head coach at St. Bernard/Norwich Tech, over what Cook said was an incident on a bus the previous year, according to The Day of New London. His players briefly considered walking out of the season in protest, but eventually decided to carry on under interim coach Bob Burnside while Cook’s status upgraded to ‘paid administrative leave.’
Athletic director Brendan Case told the Norwich Bulletin he hoped to have a new coach hired within weeks after the season ended. But that was pending a resolution on Cook’s personnel issue, which as of January 18 doesn’t seem to be resolved.
Former Bloomfield/New Britain/New London coach Jack Cochran seemed like he was interested in the job. But earlier this month Cochran told us “right now” he had no plans on coaching in 2013 because he felt it would impede in following his son’s career at UConn.
October 26: Ludlowe
News that Ludlowe coach Matt McCloskey would resign at the end of the season hit the press and is confirmed by athletic director Dave Schulz. The Falcons were 1-5 at the time, having lost 25 of the team’s previous 27 games.
Yet, the Falcons rallied by winning all four of their remaining games to finish 5-5, giving McCloskey a memorable send-off.
Last week Schulz said interviews would being toward the second half of January. No word on who might be the candidates.
November 28: New Milford & Bridgeport Central
This was the first of a few interesting days, regionally.
Two coaches resigned because they felt “It’s time.”
First, Chuck Lynch resigned at New Milford after 10 seasons, saying he was “ready for a new chapter in my life.”
Then came the first first true shock of the 2012-13 offseason, a move that signaled that we were entering new territory: Central coach Dave Cadelina resigned after 16 years.
Cadelina, who took the once-downtrodden program to a pair of FCIAC championship games and two state playoffs during his tenure, said he simply believed he needed to take a break.
“I feel it’s time,” he said. “Throw Excalibur back into the lake, if you will, and let somebody new come on in.”
The Bridgeport board of education had yet to post the position as of last week. Citywide athletic director Neil Kavey said he hoped to get that squared away soon and begin vetting candidates.
As for New Milford, athletic director Lance Pliego said Monday his school has whittled a list of “about 10 worthy candidates,” down to three. But he said he couldn’t offer the job until New Milford’s school budget is hammered out. That could come before the end of January, Pliego said.
Former Masuk coach John Murphy is supposedly one of the school’s prime targets.
December 2: Avon
Quinion had spent 10 years with the program.
Two of his last four years yielded a pair of 10-0 records and a pair state playoff appearances.
December 5: Bacon Academy (added)
Just a month after naming him interim coach when Duane Miranda resigned to take the head coach job at New London, Bacon Academy officially hired Brian Enrique on August 4.
But shortly after the 2012 season ended a few weeks after the end of the season, the school decided it would re-open the job and asked Enrique to apply again.
Superintendent on Jeff Mathieu told the Norwich Bulletin every coach in the district had to reapply. The difference in this case is that they were advertising the job. “The reason why they are re-opening it is because they hadn’t had a chance to advertise last time and they want to see what the available talent pool is,” he said.
Enrique told The Bulletin he hoped to reclaim the job. “I can only say right now that I absolutely want to coach that group of young men in the offseason and on the football field next fall,” he said.
December 7: Maloney
Bob Zito, who had spent nine seasons as head coach and took the Spartans to the state playoffs in 2007, wasn’t rehired by the Meriden board of education. Zito, who went 46-46-1 overall during his stint there wasn’t exactly pleased with the board’s decision.
“I’m just disappointed with the way the whole thing played out,” Zito told the Record-Journal. “I was there for the kids and I thought I did everything I could for the kids.”
Zito won two state championships while coaching Joe Lato and Steve George at Newtown in the early 1990s and also helped kick-start John Murphy‘s coaching career. Moved on to Stratford (for one season) and Weston before taking over at Maloney in 2004.
December 11: Trinity Catholic & Masuk
Within minutes of each other, two more regional coaches called it quits.
Minutes after Stokes confirmed he was leaving Trinity, the region was hit with an much larger bombshell (Sorry, Pete):
John Murphy quit at Masuk after 15 seasons, 159 victories and three state championships. “This is what’s best for me and my family,” he said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I can do here.”
Murphy hinted his reasoning as a dissatisfaction with his school’s support of the football program.
The school has yet to conduct interviews, though interested parties include Ridgefield defensive coordinator David Brennen, a Masuk teacher, former Ludlowe coach Mike Forget (now an assistant at Darien), Monroe Lions coach Steve Christy and (maybe) Weston coach Joe Lato.
December 17: Fitch & Rockville
Fitch coach Mike Emery‘s second stint at the school he built into a powerhouse in the late 1990s ended at the team’s postseason banquet.
Emery said his resignation had to do with his duties as an assistant principal.
Up in Vernon, coach and Rockville alumnus Rob Scholtz resigned after just one year.
We actually have no idea exactly when this happened or how or why because Vernon apparently exists in some anti-Internet shield which is impenetrable to anything except short Vernon Patch articles that seem to have stopped covering the team in November.
(Aside: What, exactly, do you people read for football news in the CCC?)
Whatever. It’s significantly of our domain and far beyond of the Oort Cloud of our interest. (Google *that!*)
This we do know: The job opened December 17 and closed January 2. Anybody apply?
December 18: Stamford
We were again hit regionally when Bryan Hocter resigned as head coach at Stamford after three seasons. Hocter’s decision came just 30 minutes before a scheduled meeting with athletic director Jim Moriarty.
There had been rumors that Hocter would have been fired at the meeting. Though Moriarty did little to dispel that notion when asked by our own Dave Ruden (“He had 11 years on the staff and three years as head coach and because of inconsistencies in the program he decided to resign,” Moriarty said.), Hocter said he had made his decision to leave a few weeks earlier.
“I didn’t think I was going to get fired,” he said. “They brought up some concerns they had. Halfway through the season I thought it was time to explore other options.”
While Hocter says he hopes to hook on somewhere else, a source has said Darien defensive coordinator Idris Price is applying for the job. We’re not sure when interviews will commence yet.
December 21: East Lyme (added)
We missed this one earlier: Just before Christmas, East Lyme’s Paul Tenaglia resigned because the school wanted to hire a coach within the school system, partially to help boost dwindling numbers. He was offered to stay on as an assistant but decided to leave.
The school reportedly had their sights set on Old Saybrook/Westbrook coach Rudy Bagos, a physical education teacher at East Lyme. Sure enough, East Lyme bagged him on January 10.
January 4: Torrington & Branford
Saying he was burdened by the 45-minute commute and expecting a second child, Dan Dunaj unexpectedly resigned after five relatively successful seasons. He will remain a physical education teacher.
“After 17 years of coaching, taking a break would probably be OK,” he told the Republican-American. “I don’t think I am done altogether, but right now everything is put on hold.”
Also revealed by the Republican-American was a hazing incident involving Torrington’s football players that apparently took place in September. Not much is known of it or how much it could have contributed to Dunaj’s resignation, if at all.
Later that day it was revealed that Mike Tracy had stepped down at Branford after four seasons.
Tracy’s reason, according to the New Haven Register, was to spend more time with his kids.
But we weren’t done quite yet…
January 5: Ellington/Somers (added)
At the team banquet, Ellington/Somers’ successful coach Keith Tautkus resigned after 13 seasons.
Tautkus took the co-op program to its second-consecutive state playoff berth last season, where it was defeated by Weston 29-22 in the Class M quarterfinals.
He leaves with a career record of 84-41.
January 10: Old Saybrook/Westbrook (added)
When Rudy Bagos decided to take the job at East Lyme, Old Saybrook/Westbrook suddenly found itself without a coach.
Old Saybrook/Westbrook was 10-10 under Bagos in two seasons.
January 14: Abbott Tech
Chris Mascolo, who started the Tech school program in 2008, called it quits on Tuesday after five years. Mascolo wanted to focus on continuing his education.
“Abbott Tech gave me an opportunity to be a head coach when nobody else would,” Mascolo said. “…I loved the challenge of coaching at a technical school. For a lot of the kids, it was their first year playing, so it was a challenge for us to get them to love football.”
He certainly did that. After an expected 0-9 start when program’s began its first varsity season in 2010, Mascolo’s team went 6-4 last year.
Athletic director Jon Nadeau said the job is posted and a search will begin immediately.
January 17: Bunnell & Woodstock Academy
Shortly after the New Year, two-time state championship Craig Bruno‘s name came up often with sources while we were attempting to pin down candidates for the Naugatuck coaching job.
Naugatuck’s search, which began in December, quickly narrowed to four candidates: the current interim coach Shawn Kuczenski, Post University offensive coordinator Steve Croce, Woodland offensive coordinator Tim Phipps and Bruno.
Initial reports said this week Phipps’ appointment was a mere formality. But a day after the announcement was put on hold due to a snow storm, Bruno usurped Phipps and got the job.
Bruno’s move north surprised some. Why leave a good thing at Bunnell, where Bruno had won two state championships and coached at least two NFL caliber players?
“I felt that I’ve accomplished all my goals in a place that I built,” said Bruno, who said living “10 minutes” away in Oxford factored into his decision. “I’m leaving this situation on good terms. I have a lot of great feelings and memories there, but I felt at this point in my life I had to make a change.”
The Bruno news usurped news from way upstate when Woodstock Academy coach Jesse Pimental resigned after one season.
Pimental intended to continue with his second season, but recently he decided coaching put too much strain on his family. “…That was more than I was willing to sacrifice,” he told the Norwich Bulletin.
Woodstock Academy, a Class L school, went 0-10 last year and is 6-34 over the last four seasons while shuffling through three different coaches and petitioning the ECC to play in its small division.
Update: Lewis Mills
Lewis Mills’ school district posted a vacancy for head coach, though it was uncertain when and why.
So that’s 17 19 20 23 24 jobs open overall and four filled by mid-January: one by hiring the interim coach, another by promoting in-house, and two by pilfering another school’s coach.
So that’s 19 20 jobs technically open.
Round and round this Merry-Go-Round we go.
When will it stop? No one knows.