Former sports star returns to NHS

Former Naugatuck High School multi-sport athlete Brian Mariano stands for a photo inside the high school in Naugatuck on Thursday. The former All-American athlete is now a dean of students and the athletic director at the school. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Dressed to impress.

Color-coordinated ties, dress shirts and pants, sport coats and polished shoes are a fashion statement which fits Naugatuck’s Brian Mariano well these days, as he strolls the hallways in his role as an interim dean of student life and athletic director at his high school alma mater.

His wardrobe and clean-cut appearance has a purpose.

“If someone is walking down the hall and sees a well-dressed person, they must think ‘that guy knows what he’s doing,’” Mariano said.

Just 32, Mariano has always been mature beyond his years. His professional career is taking a rapid climb upward, thanks to his well-rounded resume.

Being a superb multisport athlete, both at the scholastic — at Naugatuck High School — and collegiate levels — at Indiana University — clearly helps.

A physical education teacher in the borough at Maple Hill and Hop Brook elementary schools and later at City Hill Middle School, Mariano was recommended for the administrative posts on an interim basis last summer.

He expects to go through the application process to retain both roles sometime within the next few months. Understanding that nothing is guaranteed beyond this academic year, Mariano is taking his large responsibilities as a dean of roughly half of the 1,240 students — last names beginning with M through Z — in stride.

In his office, there’s a framed plaque that says, “Remember there are no mistakes, only lessons.”

“With this job, you never know what each day will bring,” Mariano said. “Leadership is difficult at times. It’s hard to please everyone all of the time. I struggle a lot with making the right decision.”

But he said he won’t compromise his core values and beliefs, basic philosophies influenced greatly by his parents, Doug and Nancy, and older siblings, his brother Eric, now 40, and sister, Lisa, 36. Lisa is the wife of Naugatuck boys basketball coach Mike Wilson and also the Greyhounds’ girls soccer coach.

Brian Mariano says his wife of eight years, Ashley, a Westover School graduate and math teacher at Naugatuck High School, keeps him grounded. They are the parents of 5-year-old Eliana, and 3-year-old Blake.

“Ashley brings a side of logic when I’m clouded in my thoughts,” Mariano said. “She molds us together. I’m very, very lucky.”

Mariano also feels that way professionally, and is hopeful of providing a positive influence on those students around him, just like his mentors did for him more than 15 years ago.

What was Mariano’s best quality as a teenager?

“To be humble,” he said. “But I don’t know if I always came across that way. Probably not. As an athlete, I was a little gritty and not timid on making a tackle (in soccer) or scared on doing a new dive from 30 feet up. I really tried to do things the right way all of the time.”

Clearly, Mariano’s athletic achievements are best remembered by his ESPY Award nomination for Player of the Year when during the 2001 CIAC Class LL state championship, a 3-2 win over Westhill of Stamford, he demonstrated his trademark 360-degree flip throw-in from 50 yards away which got by the goalkeeper for the game-winner.

While those days are not forgotten, they’re a distant memory now as he looks toward a bright professional future.

“As with any new undertaking, Brian enjoys the challenges and embraced the learning curve of life at the high school level,” Naugatuck High Principal Jan Saam said. “Students respond to him because they immediately recognize his respect for and genuineness toward them. Brian never hesitates to get involved and step in whenever needed. He offers his assistance to teachers in the classroom or through conversations about teaching and learning. Whether he deals with parents, athletic officials, community members, staff, students, or his colleagues, he always retains a professional acumen. He’s a great addition to the administrative team.”