There are not many things in life as certain as death and taxes. For nearly four decades, Bob Orgovan may have been a close third with 39 years as the head coach of the Amity boys’ cross country team.
Like all good things, that run, which included countless regional and state championships, officially ended when Orgovan, 69, resigned last spring. If that were not enough for the Amity program, longtime assistant coach Thom Jacobs hung up his whistle as well.
With plenty of hardware on the cross country mantle, including back-to-back Class LL championships the last two seasons, the Amity program will look to a new leader to carry on the tradition.
Much to the delight of the former coaches and those close to the program, that person is Jon Faitsch, who formerly coached at Guilford and came on last season to assist the legendary coaches.
“I am extremely happy,” Orgovan said of the hiring of Faitsch. “I can’t think of anybody who would be better. He was with us last year so he is very familiar with the program and the kids. We are close friends and that helps. I think the thing about Jon is he relates very well with the kids. You have to. He is very good with the younger kids. Some coaches don’t take the time or effort to work with the younger kids, but he does. He has been coaching for 17 years so he knows. He has a plan. He has the respect of the guys.”
Faitsch enters the 2016 season knowing all eyes will be on a program which has set a gold standard over the last few decades.
Under Orgovan, the boys team took home seven state titles and was involved in 29 State Open meets, including a second-place finish in 2005.
If those were not enough, Amity won 19 Housatonic Division championships, plus six Housatonic League titles prior to that, and Amity took part in 16 New England Championships, including 10 straight from 2003-2012. The Spartans won the New England Championship in 2005 and placed second in 2008.
Surprising enough, Faitsch does not feel the pressure which may come with such a well-regarded program.
“It is a little daunting replacing not just one, but two legends,” Faitsch said of Orgovan and Jacobs. “Nobody wants to follow up Vince Lombardi. Bob and Tom made it very easy last year. The kids saw that they both wanted me there. Everyone at Amity has been tremendous. I look forward to the challenge. I could not ask for a better situation to fall into. They have built one of the best programs in the state. I feel it is the right place at the right time.
“I do not feel any pressure. Maybe I should. I am not the one that is going to do it. It is the kids that will continue this. I think both Bob and Tom will tell you the same thing. The kids do it. We just guide the ship. They perform out there and they determine whether you are successful or not.”
Faitsch will have his own style, one which the returning members of last season’s dominant squad noticed. That team, which won the Housatonic Division, Southern Connecticut Conference and Class LL, along with a fourth-place finish in the State Open, worked extensively with Faitsch.
Whether it was the plan of Orgovan and Jacobs or just coming to the program at the right time, Faitsch was thrown right into the mix, pooling all of their knowledge and work habits to mold a dominant squad.
Three championships and a top-five state finish later and it is safe to say Faitsch had plenty to offer in his one year along with the legendary pair.
“We worked well together last year,” Faitsch said. “It was fantastic. It was a situation where we all checked our egos at the door. We worked together to benefit the kids. The kids had a great season. I knew both of them well. I know both will be around. There has not been much adjustment. Tom and Bob were really good friends before I even came here. It was a unique situation that I came into. I had that adjustment period in the spring. Both coaches allowed me to do my thing and get my feet wet. Last year was a unique situation with all the talent we had. Right now, we have to make up for the graduated kids from the varsity level who are in college. We are looking for guys who were J.V. (junior varsity) runners last year to be varsity runners.”
Make no mistake, the show will be Faitsch’s, but he will have plenty of people to support him, including his well-regarded assistant coach Dean Bhatt, senior captains Nick Yoo and Kyle Beaudette and junior captain Andrew Burford.
Bhatt shares plenty of the beliefs that come along with Faitsch, while his tri-captains have already bought in, something Faitsch noticed early a season ago.
“I have a great assistant in Dean Bhatt,” Faitsch said. “He is a graduate of Amity and went to Southern Connecticut State University. I am very fortunate to have someone with his ability helping.
“I can already see they (captains) have that leadership ability. All three have done well. They were actually very much involved in the team last year. Last year, the team was very business-like with a job to get done. The three of them conduct themselves like that.”
Faitsch will expect plenty of big things from his captains, but most importantly the first-year coach at Amity will expect his captains to instill what the program means into the younger runners. With the way the three compete — Beaudette is one of the top runners in the state and Burford got plenty of varsity experience a season ago – the sell should be very simple.
“It is hard to put a certain goal on what we would like to do this year,” Faitsch said. “We want those J.V. guys to get experience and conduct themselves the way Amity athletes should. We want to be one of the better teams in the state.
“There is an expectation to live up to. It was a unique year last season. Teams like that do not come along that often.”
Two legendary coaches have stepped aside with the hopes of another, Faitsch, keeping the program where it has been for four decades.
Faitsch is ready for the challenge and feels the support of the school system will prove to be as valuable as any.
“The school is fantastic,” Faitsch said. “The athletic department and the athletic director (Ernie Goodwin) are just great. It has been pretty seamless. There is a great group of kids. I think that definitely helps that I was there last year. I was there in the fall and spring and was in charge of the spring training. I did that without any help. The kids got to see my style. I was pretty pleased. I did not know until a week or two before they announced it. Both Bob and Tom both said they would be retiring somewhere down the line. I did not anticipate it happening that quickly.”