He was just window shopping, at first. But before he knew it, Doug Cotto had traded in his Newtown blue and gold for Bunnell silver and blue.
Cotto, the Hawks’ defensive coordinator for the past two seasons, only started to look at head coaching jobs to see where he stood in his relatively young career. The unexpected vacancy at Bunnell intrigued him. It was the only job he liked and the only job to which he applied.
“I was really happy at Newtown. I wasn’t really looking to make a move. It was more of an exploratory thing,” Cotto said. “The way I saw it, I was either going to be at Bunnell or stay at Newtown.”
But Bunnell showed mutual interest, and athletic director Dave Johnson and his search committee brought Cotto back in for a second interview.
Just a week later, Cotto was offered one of the prime football jobs in the region.
After a couple more weeks of administrative wrangling, Cotto officially became the school’s new football coach on Tuesday. He met with his new team after school Thursday.
The 30-year old Cotto, whose day job is financial planning, undoubtedly has a challenge ahead of him. He takes over for Crag Bruno, who took program to unprecedented heights, including back-to-back state championship seasons in 2006 and 2007, before moving to Naugatuck after 12 seasons.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Craig’s done a lot of great things here and I have some big shoes to fill and expectations to be met. But I’m looking forward to the challenge. I can’t wait to get started.”
A former defensive lineman from New Jersey who played on Fairfield University’s last football team in 2002, Cotto previously coached at Nichols College and at Law before becoming the defensive coordinator at Newtown two years ago.
Newtown reached the state playoffs in both of Cotto’s seasons. Last year, Newtown won its first SWC championship since 1997.
“I’m grateful for my experience at Newtown,” he said. “I learned a lot from (coach) Steve George and owe him a lot. It’s bittersweet. But the guys at Newtown understand.”
Cotto says he understands what kind of team he is inheriting. He had a front-row seat as Bunnell and Newtown often clashed in big SWC games.
“I know they have a lot of great athletes and the community is behind them,” Cotto said. “I’m excited to become a part of that family and to help keep up their winning tradition.”
The Bulldogs, however, are coming off a rare losing season. They were 3-7 a year ago.
“Last year, they hit a speed bump, so we’ll be looking to get back to winning, to bring state championships back to Bunnell,” he said. “The fundamentals are there. We’re going to come after people.”
Dave Johnson was unavailable for comment. He did not return a phone message as of Thursday afternoon.