Bill Mella was eager for a challenge.
Based on his latest move, it appears that the former Southington and Avon Old Farms football coach found what he was looking for. Mella, 50, on Thursday was named the new football coach at Bassick, the school announced.
“He’s looking for the challenge,” Bridgeport citywide athletic director Chris Johnson said. “We’re looking for someone who’s going to be in the building. We’re looking to get things moving, get things rolling.”
The challenge facing Mella is obvious. He’s tasked with revitalizing a program with a long history of losing. Bassick finished 0-10 last year and is just 9-43 over the last five seasons.
“(It is) a program that looked to be in need of a rebuild, something that you can build and be a part of for a long time,” said Mella, who spent the last four seasons at prep school powerhouse Avon Old Farms. “(It is) something that you can sink your teeth into and watch grow rather than walking into a turn-key program. I think there’s way more intrinsic value that you get from being in something like that and building something and watching all the lives that you get to be a part of.
“I think that’s really where the opportunity seemed to be a great fit and where I got excited wanting to move my professional career.”
Last season, Mella led a team that included former Harding quarterback and Clemson commit Taisun Phommachanh to an 8-1 record. The Winged Beavers reached the New England Class A title game, where they lost 48-27 to Choate Rosemary Hall.
“I’m really coming from more of a collegiate setting where there’s recruiting from all over the country and, in fact, over the world. This is just a different opportunity,” said Mella, adding that he was eager to get back to coaching at a public school. “It’s really a place where I think there’s a lot of untapped talent.”
Keeping that talent invested in the program at Bassick, however, has not been easy. Interest in the sport from within the school has suffered. The Lions finished last year with only 18 players — an eye-opening figure that nearly forced them to forfeit games.
Hoping to avoid those same problems, Mella, who will teach physical education at Bassick, wants to forge relationships that carry over to the football field.
“I’m just going to recruit the hallways — be present and be outgoing and introduce myself to the kids,” he said. “(I want to) let them see that I’m genuine and wanting to see them succeed.”
Aside from coaching five years at Southington (2005-09), where he went 43-13 and took two teams to the Class LL finals, Mella worked as an assistant coach at both Trinity College and Wesleyan University.