Jan 172013

A two-time state-championship-winning coach is on his way to the Naugatuck Valley League.


Bunnell coach Craig Bruno has been named the next head coach at Naugatuck, ending a month-plus-long process that had a few bumps along the way.

“I feel like it was time in my career for a new professional challenge,” Bruno told me on the phone Thursday morning. “It’s always been a job that intrigues me. The tradition of the program and the credibility of the school are great. It’s the right fit for me.”

The Connecticut Post’s Sean Patrick Bowley was first to report this story and it was later confirmed by the Republican-American and the Naugatuck Patch.

Bruno was one of two final finalists, if you will, along with Woodland offensive coordinator Tim Phipps. Both had second interviews Wednesday after being among four preliminary finalists the week prior. The other finalists were Post offensive coordinator Steve Croce and Naugatuck interim coach Shawn Kuczenski.

Tuesday a source told me that Phipps was set to be named the head coach, but that turned out to be incorrect and instead he was to be named one of two finalists. I considered Phipps the early favorite based on conversations with people very close to the situation, but Bruno may have been a bit of a surprise applicant that came after those talks. The opening, which was only posted internally, drew about 20 applications, according to what Naugatuck athletic director Tom Pompei told the Rep-Am.

“The candidates were great,” Bruno said. “My experience certainly helped in the process. The situation fits my personality.”

I’m being told today by a source that Phipps may indeed have ended up getting the job had there been a history teaching job available in the school. Phipps is currently a history teacher at Woodland. The source says that Bruno assured the school that he would be able make it from his job as a physical education teacher in Bridgeport to Naugatuck in time for practices every day. The Naugatuck Patch story says “there have been discussions” between Bruno and the school about teaching in the borough if a position becomes available.

Bruno’s success at Bunnell includes a pair of Class L state championships in 2006 and 2007. Bunnell’s offense was often among the best in the South-West Conference during Bruno’s 12-year tenure. He is 44 years old and played at Bunnell in the 1980s, according to the Post. He moved to Naugatuck eight years ago and lives close to the high school.

Bruno said he will try to meet the Greyhounds as soon as possible and get to work.

“I want to build relationships and build a staff,” Bruno said. “We want to get as strong as possible for the season. I think us getting strong is a huge part of getting ready for next year. My mentality is to make sure that we get ourselves ready for the season. I’m not sure of all the personnel here yet, but I’m going to try my best to get us ready.”

By the way, Naugatuck hosts Bunnell in Week 6 of the 2013 season. We’ll be broadcasting that game on WATR. Intrigue!

  44 Responses to “Craig Bruno Named Naugatuck Head Coach”

  1. I thought Phipps would get the job. Maybe Pompei realized that this program needs to step-it-up in a big way and the fact that Bruno has “head-coaching experience” (along with titles) probably sealed the deal despite coming off of a horrible season.

  2. Like I said in the post, Bruno is certainly a good hire and I think his reputation/track record for bringing discipline to the program will be a major plus. The word on Naugy over the last decade is that it’s been a sleeping giant and getting the guys at the school who should be playing actually on the field is the key.

    I just talked to Bruno and will add some of his thoughts into the post shortly.

    I’m still surprised that Phipps didn’t get the job. I’m hearing that perhaps a factor in that decision was that there’s no history teaching job open in the school system, and that may have been a part of him coming. That’s totally unconfirmed but it’s a valid concern. The Naugatuck Patch has its story up and cites Bruno’s current job as a gym teacher in Bridgeport and potential move to Naugatuck if a position ever opened.

    Here’s that Patch story for those interested:


    • The final decision is fine – congratulations, Coach Bruno – but if you can believe the account that I received, the handling of the process down the stretch was disgraceful. With regard to Coach Phipps, I think you’re on the right track, Kyle, but this did not go down the way most might think. It seems that after a lengthy courtship, the AD started drawing-up plays that he ultimately could not execute, and once that was clear, everything was taken off the table and the whole process went in a different direction in the matter of hours. It is shameful that a candidate with the qualifications and integrity of Coach Phipps would be treated that way. There are folks in the ‘Tuck that should lose sleep over the way this was handled; that hound at the top of the page should have its’ tail tucked between its’ legs.

  3. Both finanlists were good choices but I think Naugy got it right. Any time you can land somebody with a proven track record for success and multiple state championships you take him. This hire should improve the quality of football in the league. Woodland wins too because they get to keep the continuity of their staff in place on what should be a good upcoming season..

    • I agree, I don’t think they would have gone wrong with Bruno, Phipps or Croce. I feel bad for Phipps, though, because if there’s one assistant coach in the league right now who deserves a head coaching job it’s him. It sounds like he came painfully close to getting this job, too.

  4. Joe Palladino of the Rep-Am got a few thoughts from Tom Pompei:


  5. Bruno was a no brainer. comparing both canidates, pompei had to go with the better resume and bigger personality. bruno also adds to the dwindeling amount of top level coaches in the nvl. make no mistake about bruno, he’s coming to naugatuck to win every game. bradley better ice up that right arm, because no one likes throwing deep balls more than bruno.

    • Bradley is a smaller version of what Bruno had with Steve Smith in the 2006 state championship season. He’s poised to have a fantastic season, as long as he has some weapons. Nate Franklin could be the guy next year, provided he stays on the field.

  6. That opens the door for Murphy to take over Bunnell. I’d love to see Murphy get the Bunnell job so he could bitchwhip Masuk for the next 20 years. Bunnell has some dudes.

    • Very good point. That should be pretty interesting to see who applies at Bunnell.

      I’ve been hearing since the end of the season that Shelton would be open sooner or later. Is that no longer going to be the case?

  7. I havent heard anything regarding Shelton opening up. Coach Roy will remain until he is ready to leave. The new Shelton AD doesn’t have the balls to make any bold moves.

  8. Number of years it will take Coach Bruno to beat Ansonia?

  9. It’s been awhile since I posted or have been on here BUT I just wanted to say congrats to my very good friend Craig Bruno. I feel he will do a fantastic job at my alma mater. I also wanted to address all of the Naugatuck alumni and fans who read this site…..Support this man and Naugatuck will once again be back where it belongs. I also want to say thank you for those of you who supported me…..it didnt work out for me but I assure you Coach Bruno will do things the right way….for that matter the AD at Naugy couldnt go wrong because Tim Phipps is a PHENOMINAL coach and would have been an excellent choice also.

    @Wags….lets just say some things were said that werent kept true…thats all Im going to say about it

    GOOD LUCK…….Croce Out

  10. my understanding was that it was a job issue.bruno is the a.d. at bassick,is he leaving that job for a 7000 a year coaching salary?pompeii was stated to say that naugy hopes to bring bruno into school system.funny phipps wasnt offered a job which was deal breaker——-u cant live on a coaches salary. brunos a good coach, but hiring a ex-alum or area guy carries more passion,personal, and understanding qualities.

    • That’s just too bad for Tim Phipps. He seems like a very good guy and a solid football coach. He’s part of the original staff the great Chris Anderson assembled back in 2001 and has been a staple at Woodland ever since. He also teaches at the school and wears his passion for the program on his sleeve. All that being said, Craig Bruno had a better resume. A much better and more experienced resume to boot.

      Tom Pompei did a fine job with this process, based on how hard a decision it must have been. Bruno and his success at Bunnell can’t be dismissed. He won back-to-back Class L State titles at Bunnell in 2006 and 2007. Bunnell had never reached the state playoffs prior to him taking over in 2001 and Bruno had them in the semifinals in 2003. He’s also been the play caller behind some explosive offensive attacks at Bunnell.

      Pompei had to choose one coach from two quality candidates. He went with a two-time state championship coach, over a Offensive Coordinator on teams that didn’t capture a state, or league title during his five year stretch as the play caller. That’s not blaming Phipps, but he took over the play calling for a program that was thriving when Anderson depart in 2008. Phipps will get another shot again, but the way things are these days, it might be hard to expect a teaching job to come along right away, with a head coaching job.

      Glad to see Croce was a finalist for yet another job. You have to give this guy credit though, he’s always in the mix. I’m not saying he hasn’t had success as an offensive coordinator, but I waiting for Sal Palantonio to announce that Steve Croce was a finalist for the Philadelphia Eagle job. Don’t feel too bad for Tim Phipps, as he will still continue to be the offensive coordinator at woodland, as well as a tenured teacher. He will get another shot. Pompei had to go with the track record and he made the right call. Forget Bruno Remmy, how about who, or when will someone beat Ansonia?

  11. the” great “coach andersen? wow

  12. ADs drawing up plays??? Say what? Hope if Jeff Roy ever steps aside, Chris Anderson would apply and get the nod.

  13. Gotta admit he’s done very well.

  14. I wanted to wait a little while before posting this, but I want to acknowledge the passing of Woodland assistant coach George Pinho last weekend.

    George was involved with local youth sports for many years, most of his attention dedicated to football in Prospect, Beacon Falls and Naugatuck. George’s oldest son, Jake, graduated from Woodland in 2011 and his youngest, Jack, is currently a junior. Both of them were/are on the football team and have always played just like George coached and lived: with passion and unsurpassed work ethic.

    It was a pleasure knowing George, as I’m sure it was for any of our readers who knew him, and many of us will miss him. RIP.

  15. did not know him,but can feel the pain of losing a good person.it seems like too much of that going around lately.prayers to his family ,friends, and community.

  16. Any word on other open coaching positions aroound the state?
    i.e. Torrington, Masuk, Bunnell

  17. torringtons Dan Dunaj had his resignation accepted at the last board meeting Wednesday night even though one of the board members attempted to push off the vote to no avail, officially it says that Dunajs resignation does not take effect untill fall of 2013 so im interested in seeing whether or not dunaj will be involved in some capacity until then.

  18. NH Register says today that there’s a ton of openings for coaches… 23. Wow! Congrats to the Woodland Hawks, in the midst of their bereavemnt, for what must be the biggest hoops win that program ever had.

    Heard from another SCC guy, Shelton douchebag admin trying to push Jeff out. They are just the biggest dirtbags to ever come down the pike. A pox on them all… and that’s not all but, given the rest, could welcome unwanted surviellance.

    • Matos to the University of Rhode Island. Awesome stuff!

      • Congrats to Andrew. I think he has big-time D1 talent but he will have a chance to play and have an impact right away at URI. I wish him well. He is only scratching the surface of his potential. He has all the tools to be a star.

  19. Unfortunately, the NVL lost a great former AD and advocate for student athletes with the passing of George Tirado. Having taught with George for many years at Wilby, I know he cared deeply for the NVL and for Waterbury’s student athletes. Joe Palladino wrote a fine article today on George. He was able to capture the essence of George’s passion and commitment to the NVL. George will be missed.

  20. knew george as a great guy.he was a wilby guy thru and thru.R.I.P GEORGE

  21. perspective

    Good for Matos, I agree with KSoldra that from what I saw of him he is a D 1A talent, very similar to Kevin Macari from New Canaan a few years back, both big receivers with great hands and the speed to go deep. I think both were vastly under recruited, but like Macari at Georgetown, I think Matos will excel in D1AA. How about Murphy to New Milford, I lived up there for a few years and I came to realize that the community had Torrington-type apathy toward their high school football program; it would be cool if he could turn it around though. It’s the equivalent of Brockett leaving to take the Torrington or Watertown jobs ha-ha, although from what I have inferred Murphy was catching unwarranted heat from the powers that be in Monroe

  22. With the addition of Bruno to Naugy the NVL is gonna be alot more competetive. Murphy to NM is interesting and I see him him turning them around but it might take some time.

  23. Also on the coaching front:

    I was told that Jim Caouette was a finalist for multiple jobs, including New Milford, Maloney and Rockville. With New Milford reportedly going to John Murphy and Maloney reportedly going to Pierce Brennan, that leaves Rockville as the only one left for him. I don’t know how true all that is but it would make some sense.

    I’d like to see Jim get a head coaching job soon. He’s been a really good assistant in the league for years and deserves a program.

    • Kyle,

      Caouette was offered the Rockville job last Friday. He turned it down. Too far from home and he has 4 little kids. Hopefully he will land something soon or end up back at Wolcott with Pace and company.

      • Four little kids? He’s a busy dude. I would live to see him get a HC job. He is well trained since he was basically a HC at his last two stops. If not I’d like to see him back in Wolcott where his love is or maybe naugy as an asst.

  24. he was also a finalist for Trinity Catholic from what I heard. good guy.

  25. perspective

    Rockville hasn’t been good since they beat Holy Cross in the state semi in 1995 before losing to the Cheshire juggernaut in the L title game. Don’t forget they have a legendary alumnus by the name of Bill “ROMO” Romonowski

  26. It’s been quiet on here. Anything to talk about?