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.”
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!