BY KEN MORSE
The much-used expression about filling in some big shoes applies to new Naugatuck baseball coach Joe Iannotti. In this instance you could also apply the term extra wide as the 2009 Naugy grad becomes just the fourth baseball coach for the Greyhounds in the past 68 years.
The legacy of that position grew with Ray Legenza (1953-1976, 4 state championships, 13 NVL titles and the fabled 64-game win streak in 1970-1972). Legenza was followed by Joe Bojko with 20 years at the helm that included the borough’s last state title in 1977. Tom Deller spent 25 years in the dugout and won 324 games and four straight NVL titles from 2003-2006.
“It’s unbelievable the legacy of the head coaches at Naugatuck,” said Iannotti. “To follow those guys is quite humbling. Coach Deller has been so great to me. When I played for him and most recently as his assistant coach over the last eight years.”
Iannotti made a quick assessment of how he was going to follow in those footsteps and it had little to do with the players that were returning. Being the assistant coach for close to a decade, he knew exactly what this team is made of.
But there is an old saying that goes “if you want to be the best you need to surround yourself with the best”, and that is exactly the mindset he took when he began to assemble his coaching staff.
“I went a little old school, new school,” said Iannotti, “but stayed with the Naugy pride as every coach is a former Greyhound except one, but he teaches in town so we cut him a little slack.”
Matt Mancuso, a 2009 Holy Cross grad, is the JV coach and Stephen Marinaro, Naugy Class of 2017, is the freshman coach. Iannotti then brings in some old school with assistants Stephen Hiscock (2006), Ken Stone (1995) and Jim Duda (1988), who will also coach the American Legion team.
“Joe will do a great job,” said Deller. “He’s a young guy with a lot of enthusiasm. He grew up in Naugatuck, played for the Greyhounds and has coached with me for the past eight years. He was a good choice to take over.
“He knows all about the history of the program. I’m sure he is not going to take this lightly. I know how I felt when I took over and yes, those are some big shoes to fill, but I think Joe is the right man for the job. I think he will be there for a very long time as well.”
What will make this an easy fit is there won’t be the usual transition from one coach to another since Iannotti has been with this team for the past eight seasons serving as an assistant coach.
“I’m really excited about the staff we have put together,” said Iannotti. “Everyone brings a little something to the table. Stephen pitched in the Tampa Bay organization and will be a great asset to our pitching staff.
“We want to focus on all the aspects of the game from fielding, to base running, to situational hitting. We want to excel in all facets of the game. The goal is to bring home an NVL championship, but this is a tough league and there are a lot of teams that present a challenge.”
Iannotti continued: “We are not looking to reinvent the wheel here, but we want to get over the hump and take it to another level. I think by focusing on every aspect of the game is a good place to start.”
Iannotti ready to lead Naugy baseball
BY KEN MORSE