Hand athletic director Craig Semple confirmed Wednesday that the school has hired Dave Mastroianni to be the Tigers’ next head football coach.
Mastroianni has been on staff at Hand since 2007 and in charge of the defense since 2009.
Multiple sources confirmed the news to the New Haven Register on Tuesday. The hire was first reported by WTNH-8 sports reporter Erik Dobratz.
Mastroianni takes over for Steve Filippone, who retired at the end of this past season in which Hand went 2-8. Filippone told his players at the beginning of the season that this would be his final season as head coach.
Mastroianni will be the third coach in program history. Larry Ciotti started the Tigers program from scratch in 1971 and won four state titles during his tenure. Filippone took over in 1989 and complied a record of 223-82-5 with seven state championships.
“To follow coach Filippone and coach Ciotti, it’s special,” Mastroianni said when reached Wednesday. “When you talk about Connecticut high school football — and not to offend anyone — if it’s not the best program in the state, it’s in the top 3. To be able to inherit that legacy is exciting. I’m excited to further that legacy and add to it.”
Semple confirmed that Mastroianni and another another assistant, Mike Ciotti (Larry’s son), were the two finalists for the position. Mastroianni is a social studies teacher at Hand; Mike Ciotti is self-employed.
“In the end …. it was so close,” Semple said. “The committee deliberated for hours — 130 hours in total, actually. Both internal candidates are proven coaches and quality individuals.”
Filippone said he had little say in the final decision but thought both Mastroianni and Mike Ciotti were both qualified for the position.
“The IQ of the head coach just went up about 30 points,” Filippone said. “He (Mastroianni) is a brilliant guy when it comes to football. He’s a teacher by trade and a teacher in terms of ability to get kids to understand what we are doing. We’re very excited for him and for our program, and I would like to think the kids are, too.”
Mastroianni, currently a Niantic resident, played four years at Foran and was a Register All-Area selection at offensive line in 1997.
He played for the late Ken Walker at Foran for two seasons and then played the remainder of his career at Foran under coach Tony Catapano, Mastroianni’s stepfather.
Mastroianni then attended Columbia, where he played right away at long snapper before eventually seeing action on the offensive line.
After college, Mastroianni was an assistant at Amity before coming over to Hand. Mastroianni believes Hand next season has the talent to rebound after last year’s sub par campaign.
“We have to remember that we’re Hand High school,” Mastroianni said. “I don’t mean that in a conceited way, but we’re used to winning. Last year was an anomaly.
“Our goal is that we want to be back in the playoffs next year. We honestly believe there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be competing for a state title next season. We have an opportunity to do that, and we have kids who can do that.”