Bruno named NHS football coach

Craig Bruno, the former head football coach at Bunnell High in Stratford, was hired as Naugatuck High School’s head football coach Thursday. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Two-time state-championship-winning coach Craig Bruno will be the next head football coach at Naugatuck High School.

Bruno accepted the job offer after he interviewed for a second time last Wednesday with Naugatuck athletic director Tom Pompei and Principal Janice Saam. Pompei will recommend the hiring to the Board of Education at its Feb. 14 meeting, at which the board is expected to approve Bruno.

Bruno, a 44-year-old Oxford resident who lives 10 minutes away from Naugatuck High, won two state championships in 12 years at Stratford’s Bunnell High, his alma mater.

“I feel like it was time in my career for a new professional challenge,” Bruno said. “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.”

Naugatuck launched the coaching search in December to fill the opening left when former coach Rob Plasky resigned in August amid recruiting violations. Defensive coordinator Shawn Kuczenski served as the interim coach and led the Greyhounds to a 6-4 record.

Bruno was one of two final finalists for the job, along with Woodland offensive coordinator Tim Phipps. Both had second interviews after being among four preliminary finalists the week prior. The other finalists were Post University offensive coordinator Steve Croce and Kuczenski, both Naugatuck alumni. More than 20 applicants expressed interest in the job.

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

Pompei said Bruno fits what the Naugatuck administration wants in the new coach.

“His appeal goes beyond championships,” Pompei said. “Bruno’s strength is in building relationships. When we got away from discussing the Xs and Os of football and talking about the coaching profession, and how it relates to students, Bruno’s focus is on the development of young people in the building. When we were sitting across the table talking, it felt right, and that made it easy to think this man should be my football coach.”

Bruno is currently a physical education teacher in Bridgeport and the athletic director at Bassick High. Pompei said he hopes one day that Bruno can take a teaching job at Naugatuck, but that is not the case at the moment.

Bruno’s success at Bunnell includes a pair of Class L state championships in 2006 and 2007. Bunnell’s offense, which relied heavily on the passing game, was often among the best in the South-West Conference during Bruno’s 12-year tenure.

In choosing the only finalist of the four to not have a Naugatuck Valley League pedigree, Pompei said he wanted the right coach, no matter his origins.

“I grew up inside the NVL and I love the NVL, but this is not a segmented thing,” Pompei said. “The only pressure I felt came from wanting to have someone who will honor past traditions and is enthusiastic about creating new ones in the future. (Bruno) will fit in perfectly in the education of the entire student-athlete. Football is his means to create quality young men.”

Bruno said he would 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.”

In a previously scheduled matchup as part of the upcoming crossover games between the NVL and the South-West Conference, Naugy will host Bunnell in Week 6 of the 2013 season.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.