Bruno resigns after four seasons at NHS

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Craig Bruno resigned Thursday as head football coach at Naugatuck High School. Bruno coached the Greyhounds for four seasons. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — Craig Bruno, who brought his bold offensive strategies to traditional Naugatuck High, resigned as the Greyhounds’ head football coach Thursday after four seasons.

Bruno accumulated a 30-13 record in his four seasons at Naugy. He led the Greyhounds to an appearance in the 2014 Class L-Large semifinals. Naugy finished one game shy of a postseason berth in two other seasons.

“I would first like to thank my players and assistant coaches for a great four years,” said Bruno, a 48-year-old Oxford resident who is a physical education teacher at Bassick High in Bridgeport. “Our 30-12 regular-season record was exciting, and I know the coaches and players are proud of that.”

The Board of Education accepted Bruno’s resignation and the resignation of several of his assistants during a special meeting.

“The football coaching staff under coach Bruno had a record any coach and community would be proud of,” Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said in a prepared statement. “Parents with whom I have spoken shared that their sons are heartbroken. Coaches have tremendous influence and impact on our students’ lives.

“Our athletic director (Brian Mariano) met with the team [Thursday] and told them that we would begin the search for a new coach as soon as possible. There will be a rigorous hiring process that will search to find a new coach who will meet our high standards. Our goal is to find a coach who will teach our players that hard team work, high expectations and great character both on and off the field lead to winning and losing seasons both on and off the field.”

During his tenure in the borough, Bruno brought modern and sometimes controversial strategies to a program as rooted in old-fashioned tradition as any in the area. He despised punting and attempted fourth-down conversions in unconventional field positions.

He also regularly called trick plays out of bizarre formations, almost always opted to try for two-point conversions after touchdowns and let his quarterbacks sling the ball around the new turf at Veterans Field.

But when the Greyhounds faltered, Bruno was regularly decried by Naugatuck alumni and longtime supporters of the program, who rejected Bruno’s style as filled with gimmicks instead of substance.

Under Bruno’s tutelage, former quarterback Jason Bradley threw 81 of his 107 career touchdown passes, a figure that is the fourth-most in state history. Bradley’s 6,945 passing yards are the 10th most in state history.

He helped place a standout wide receiver, Bryan Coney, as a walk-on at UConn. Another of his top wide receivers, Jalen Datil, is weighing his college options for next year.

Bruno’s 30-13 record was third-best among Naugatuck Valley League coaches since 2013. Only Ansonia’s Tom Brockett (51-3) and Wolcott’s Jason Pace (31-13) won more games during that span.

Bruno leaves Naugatuck with a .698 winning percentage, fourth-best among the program’s last five permanent head coaches. He trails Charlie Bertero (.860), Craig Peters (.738) and Ray Legenza (.714) but leads his predecessor, Rob Plasky (.648).

“For the returning players, I am certain they will maintain that success and continue to uphold a strong winning tradition,” Bruno said in a text. “For me, I am confident I will pursue coaching in the future. Finally, I am thankful for Naugatuck High School for the opportunity and grateful for my four years.”

Naugatuck hired Bruno in February 2013 after he spent 12 seasons as head coach of Bunnell, his alma mater in Stratford. Bruno was 94-36-1 and won two state championships with the Bulldogs. His career record stands at 124-49-1, and his .716 winning percentage is 10th-best among active coaches in Connecticut.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.