The only soccer coach Notre Dame-West Haven has ever had is retiring.
Rudy Raffone made the decision late last month to retire after 29 seasons as Notre Dame’s head soccer coach.
“The connect with the players that’s been the whole thing with me,” said Raffone, 72.
Raffone, a 1962 Notre Dame graduate, compiled a 234-203-91 record for the Green Knights. That included six SCC Quinnipiac Division championships and 21 state tournament appearances. In 1999, the Green Knights reached Class L state semifinals and reached the SCC tournament final in 2011 under Raffone’s direction.
He was named the 2002 Connecticut Soccer Coaches Association Coach of the Year.
“He began the Notre Dame program and built it from the ground up. The team for most of his years had to practice off campus and had no permanent home. Through those times, he never complained and always kept his players as his priority,” Notre Dame athletic director Tom Marcucci said in a school release announcing the retirement.
Raffone noted that he and Marcucci, childhood friends in East Haven, discussed this decision at length before it became final.
Marcucci was the school’s head baseball and football coach and Joe Tonelli the athletic director when Raffone, who was coaching at Westbrook at the time, decided to apply for the the new varsity program.
“I knew working alongside Joe Tonelli and Tom Marcucci in the high school I went to was something I couldn’t pass up,” Raffone said.
The decision wasn’t that simple. He coached the Knights from 1980-88 and two of his sons, Rudy III and Keith, there. He still lives in Westbrook. He coached his youngest son, Scott, at Notre Dame.
In this final season, he got to coach his grandson, Joe Antonucci.
“As freshmen, these kids didn’t win a game. As (current) seniors, they made the state tournament and had a pretty respectable season,” Raffone said.
Raffone retired from teaching math at the school in 2015. He won’t rule out a return to coaching in some capacity, especially if Scott, a previous head coach at both East Haven and Morgan before coming to coach with his dad, gets another gig.
He has remained in contact with many of his former players and that has been the most rewarding part of his near four decades in a head coaching capacity.
“For me, the coaching has been about the kids. The impact they have on you is equally as important as you on them,” Raffone said.