Hanley leaves big shoes to fill

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Naugatuck cross country coach Bill Hanley, right, congratulates Julia Kropo after a meet against Woodland in October 2020 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Hanley, who has coached at Naugatuck for 20 years, stepped down from coaching this month. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — After a storied career leading the Greyhounds on the cross country course and the track, Bill Hanley’s coaching run has come to an end.

Hanley stepped down from coaching Aug. 4, citing health reasons.

“This was not an easy decision on my part,” said Hanley, a retired teacher. “But I have some autoimmune issues and felt it was only fair to the kids if I make a clean break.”

Hanley led the boys cross country team for 17 years and coached the girls team for the past 10 seasons, as well.

Under his guidance, the boys won nine Naugatuck Valley League championships. Twice the Hounds won four straight titles — 2006-09 when they won 51 straight meets and 2013-16 when they won 42 straight.

The cross country whisperer also had a very large hand in Naugatuck’s success on the track as an assistant coach for the last 20 years under head coach Ralph Roper. The track program won 26 NVL indoor and outdoor titles combined between the boys and girls programs over the past two decades.

“Coach Hanley brought a continuity from cross country into the track program,” Roper said. “The list of successful runners goes on and on, year after year.”

“Those years we won the outdoor NVL titles, it was the long distance runners that helped us across the finish line,” he added. “Over the years, Coach Hanley and I have been much more than coaching colleagues, we are friends and brothers, and I consider him part of my family.”

There was a bevy of amazing runners over the years that left their mark under Hanley’s tutelage.

In 2008, Rosa Moriello and Mohamed Hrezi won the girls and boys Class L cross country championships, respectively. Hrezi went on to be named an All-American at Iowa State University and was the flag bearer for team Libya at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

In 2010, Mohamed’s brother, Muad, won the Class L title. The next year, Muad Hrezi placed second in Class L and Nick Moriello, Rosa’s brother, took third to lead the Greyhounds to second place overall.

Josh Perry won the Class L and State Open indoor track titles in the 600 in 2007. In 2008, Moriello won the 3200 Class L indoor title, and a year later Tori Pisco was the Class L indoor champion in the 600.

“Obviously, we had some very talented athletes come through here over the years,” Hanley said. “They are the ones who deserve all the credit and recognition for all the hard work they put into it. I was just here to teach them the techniques and how to run a race. They did all the work.”

Naugatuck AD Brian Mariano said he understood Hanley’s decision when the longtime coach told him he was stepping down.

“In the back of your mind you always know that there’s a small possibility of a coach stepping down, especially with some coaches who have been around for a long time, but when it happens it still comes as a bit of a surprise,” Mariano said.

“It would be unrealistic on our part to try and go out and try and find the next Bill Hanley,” he added. “You don’t necessarily come by coaches like that very often.”

Mariano said the school hired Kevin Schumann as the next cross country coach. Schumann is a new social studies teacher at the high school and is a past teacher of the year in Terryville. He also worked with Hanley when he was student teaching in Naugatuck.

Hanley said he recommended Schumann for the position when he resigned.

“My goal has always been to share that passion and to teach these kids about the sport,” Hanley said. “I feel blessed that we have Kevin stepping in and I have a peace of mind that the program is in good hands.”

After 20 years coaching, Hanley leaves big shoes to fill.

“I don’t know, in my lifetime, if I will ever find someone like Coach Hanley,” Roper said. “He brought a commitment to the program and the kids that I can’t even imagine someone being able to replicate that. I will certainly miss his support.”