By Roger Cleaveland, Republican-American
Being a head football coach, even at the high school level, can be an all-consuming, stressful job if you’re the type of person that takes the sport very seriously, and Chris Anderson has always prided himself in the dedication he offers his players in whatever coaching job he holds.
That dedication and his impressive football background earned him a unanimous vote of confidence from the 10-member head coach search committee at Naugatuck High School, and on May 13 the Board of Education appointed him the Greyhounds’ new head coach.
He succeeds 2020 interim head coach Ollie Gray, who didn’t coach a game last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the replacement for Dave Sollazzo.
Anderson, who started the Woodland Regional High School football program in 2001 and led the Hawks to two state championships (2004, 2005) during their first seven years, said he was ready to return to coaching, and the Naugatuck job was too good for him to pass up.
“I think that Naugatuck is a great job,” Anderson said. “I am really excited to get back in the mix again. There are lot of things I like about it. No. 1 is they have a Valley football mentality, and they have over 100 years of football tradition. They have beautiful facilities and they are committed to winning. They have tough kids, and I’m really excited to get to know them and see what we can do there.”
Likewise, Naugatuck athletic director Brian Mariano said there was an awful lot to like about Anderson, who was selected from a pool of eight candidates offered interviews.
“He is known as a tough, successful coach, but he also has that teaching background,” Mariano said. “We really felt he would be able to coach all of our kids from our best players to the ones that need the most attention and growth.”
Mariano said Anderson established himself as the frontrunner after the first round of interviews.
“The second round was more football-specific, and when it came to Xs and Os he really rose to the top,” Mariano said. “He really has a thorough understanding of the game. There was nobody that really compared to him in the process.”
Anderson had a 56-23 record at Woodland but then left to work for five years at the University of New Haven as an assistant. He returned to Woodland in 2015, leading the Hawks to a 7-3 record, but then he stepped down after one year.
“I just didn’t feel at that time like I could do what was necessary for that program,” Anderson said. “Chris Moffo was my assistant, and I felt like he could do a better job than I could.”
He said he needed to step away for personal reasons, including the strong desire to coach his son, Brady, through Little League, travel basketball and flag football. Now that Brady, the starting point guard at Woodland, is a junior, Anderson is ready to coach football again.
“It is in my blood, and I knew that someday I would be back,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to be in high school again, but I always thought that Naugy was a great place to coach, and I couldn’t pass it up. I felt really good about everything, and it all just fell into place.”
Now, of course, the Naugy administration expects him to beat Ansonia.
“There’s no pressure there,” Anderson joked. “Ansonia doesn’t take a backseat to anybody in the state, let alone the league. By far they are one of the top programs of all-time in Connecticut. To be able to compete with them, you’ve got to be a somebody, and hopefully we can be a somebody.”