NAUGATUCK — Although the date passed without much fanfare, Feb. 12 marked the end of an era at Naugatuck High School.
Last Friday was the day that Tom Pompei stepped down from his position as the school’s athletic director after 10 years.
Pompei, who will remain as one of two deans of students at the school, said he decided to step down as athletic director because he wants to spend more time with his wife, Tracy, and three children: Myles, 20, Thomas, 13, and Layla, 9.
“After 10 years of 15-hour days, as wonderful as it has been, it is time for me to be home with my kids. They are my number one priority. They are the loves of my life. Them and my wife. … It’s time for me to be home to get my kids off the bus, make sure I am there helping with all their homework and not missing another second of their lives,” said Pompei, who turned 40 this year.
Pompei, an Oxford resident, started at Naugatuck High as an English teacher. The athletic director position, which pays an annual stipend of $11,000, allowed Pompei to stay involved with his lifelong passion: sports.
“I am a sports junkie. I love sports. My kids, my wife and sports are the top three things in my life,” Pompei said.
Pompei has been playing sports since he was 5 years old. Once his playing days were over, he turned to coaching and still coaches his children in youth sports.
“Being athletic director has allowed me to continue that career, stay involved with the kids, and still enjoy the best parts of sports — the camaraderie, the family atmosphere, the competitive nature of things, and constantly challenging yourself. All the things that are involved with being a student-athlete,” Pompei said. “When I came here soccer and basketball where the sports I knew best and the coaches I was closest with, and they always let me be an integral part of things. In huddles, on the sidelines, in the locker rooms. They let me be a de facto coach with them. So it has really allowed me to really enjoy the whole process.”
Pompei said one of the best moments of his tenure as athletic director came a few years back when football coach Craig Bruno had his seniors write letters to the people in their lives that were most influential and helped them.
“I got one from Jason Bradley, our superstar quarterback, who has been like a third son to me. I got a letter from him,” Pompei recalled.
Pompei said in his home he has a bureau where he keeps items that are important to him, such as pictures of his family and the achievements of his children. Bradley’s letter has a place on that bureau.
“It’s a wonderful job when you get that feedback from a kid who has kind of taken a piece of your heart and you realize you may have helped them a little bit too,” Pompei said.
It is not just the students who hold Pompei in high regard.
“Tom Pompei was a remarkable AD. Every decision he made was in the interest of all athletes. He devoted countless hours at both home and away competitions as well as practices, meetings, award ceremonies and overseeing player eligibility. He took his role as AD very seriously. The athletes respected him. He was a mentor to many of them. He also helped me understand all the rules of the game and knew the CIAC rules by memory,” Naugatuck High School Principal Jan Saam said.
The role of athletic director didn’t stay empty for long.
The Board of Education hired Brian Mariano, one of the best athletes in Naugatuck High School history, as the interim athletic director last week. Mariano, 32, currently works for the district in an administrative training program where he splits his time between Maple Hill Elementary School, Hop Brook Elementary School and Naugatuck High School.
“I am thrilled to work with Brian in this role,” Saam said.
Mariano was also named the next boys head soccer coach to replace former coach Art Nunes. Mariano starred on the team and helped lead the team to a state championship before returning as an assistant coach 10 years ago.
Pompei called Mariano the “once and future king” of NHS sports.
Although he has stepped down from his position as athletic director, Pompei will still be a fixture at the school and on the sidelines.
“I plan on staying involved, being a fan, and I will still be an administrator and support all the teams. I will focus on being dean of students and doing the best I can. Then going home and being there and enjoying my children,” Pompei said.
The Republican-American contributed to this article.