In what could be major shift in the FCIAC balance of power, not to mention the source of some serious (if lighthearted) inter-family conflict in coming seasons, John Marinelli, the offensive coordinator at New Canaan and son of nine-time championship coach Lou Marinelli, was hired as next head coach at rival Greenwich High School.
He will be just the school’s third head coach since 1972.
Greenwich made the blockbuster hire official Wednesday afternoon. Marinelli met with his new team at 2 p.m. “I took the job at 12 and since then I’ve been overwhelmed,” he said. “Overwhelmed, but in a good way.”
A 2009 Trinity College graduate, Marinelli, 29, is credited with being an integral part of his father’s program’s recent state championship success. Lou Marinelli, one of the all-time winningest coaches in Connecticut history, has won 10 state titles in 34 seasons as the Rams head coach.
“I think John is a bright, motivated coach who will provide great leadership for our boys at Greenwich High School,” GHS athletic director Gus Lindine said. “We wanted someone who was going to maintain tradition of our football program. It is an extremely storied tradition here at Greenwich and we think John will maintain that and embrace it.
“People here are certainly excited. I’ve heard nothing but positives.”
The decision to leave his dad’s side and head to a rival program was a tough decision, Marinelli said. But in the end, his desire to grow as a football coach and take on another challenge proved to be the tipping point.
“I was in a comfortable situation at New Canaan,” Marinelli said. “But in order for me be person want to be, the coach and role model I wanted to be, I need to go out and show what I’m capable of by running my own program. It just happens that it’s at Greenwich, which is one of the top programs in the state.
“This is a huge challenge and I love the pressure of it. It’s such a great football town with such a rich tradition. This is the only job I would have left New Canaan for. I’m excited to get started.”
While father Lou Marinelli lamented the loss of one of his top assistants to a rival school, he was proud of his son’s elevation to head football coach.
“It’s great. I think it’s great,” Lou Marinelli said. “It’s one of the premier jobs in the state and he’s worked his rear-end off for us and he’s done just about everything — as far as technologically, with scouting reports, with his tremendous coaching insight. He’s been involved in every phase of football in New Canaan.
“Despite what you might think, he labored with this decision. My wife (Fran) and I were beside ourselves because we thought he might turn it down. It was a no-brainer. So we were very happy he took the job. We’re really proud of him. He’s going to do a great job and we’re going to have to pick up the pieces and see if we can’t keep up the same level of coaching as he brought.”
What Greenwich gets in return is, perhaps, one of the top young coaches in Connecticut… and probably its most innovative and energetic.
Since John joined his father’s staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2009, New Canaan has virtually the dominant style of Connecticut football. The program has toppled school, FCIAC and even state offensive records while winning three state championships in five appearances. John Marinelli’s offenses averaged 4,919 yards per season and 383 per game.
New Canaan did it with flair (the team became notorious for its myriad of uniform styles) and a swagger largely attributed to John Marinelli’s coaching style, something for which he makes no apologies. “When you’re winning, people look for reasons to dislike you,” he said.
“With all the bad news going in and around football now, with concussions and things like that, football is being attacked and nobody talks about the positives,” he continued. “Kids will be kids and you want them to have fun. Sometimes you have to talk to them about (excessive celebrations) and making hand gestures, but there’s nothing wrong with playing with a swagger. You’ve gotta have confidence. If you play with confidence, you play better.”
Said Lindine, “That stuff, that’s all based on him creating a lot of excitement and enthusiasm around the kids. He gets them turned on to the game. That’s all it’s about.”
Even rival FCIAC coaches believe Greenwich made a great move in securing Marinelli.
“They’ve made a tremendous hire,” said Marce Petroccio, coach of Thanksgiving rival Staples. “And he’ll do a great job. He’s been groomed for this a long time, he comes from a winning tradition. He’s a young, enthusiastic and very good football coach. Like I told his dad, it was bad enough with one, now I have to face two of you every year.”
John Marinelli joins a Greenwich program that is one of the state’s most storied. The Cardinals own the most FCIAC championships in league history, and also own seven state titles, all won under former coaches Mike Ornato (4) and Rich Albonizio (3).
But since a dominating run under Albonizio in the 2000s, which culminated in back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, the Cardinals have qualified for the state playoffs just once, in 2011.
Albonizio was forced to resign after 18 seasons following a 7-4 mark in 2014.
“It’s a football town,” said John Marinelli, who said he expects some of Albonizio’s staff to remain with him. “They love football. And it’s still Greenwich. I’m stepping into a great foundation built by the great men who came before me I just want to bring my style and my energy and my philosophy and hopefully turn it over.”
But he doesn’t want to waste any time.
“There are no rebuilding seasons at Greenwich,” John said. “My dedication is to make sure the senior class the best year the’ve every had, that they feel like when they walk out of here twas one of the most beneficial of their lives.”
Lou Marinelli said when Albonizio called to inform him of him of his ouster back in January, Albonizio suggested that John would be a perfect replacement.
“Here you ware during one of the worst times in your life, but for him to put all that aside just tells you what kind of guy he is,” Lou Marinelli said. “Johnny’s talked to Richie and he’s been giving Johnny as many tips as he can.”
Greenwich, which hasn’t defeated New Canaan since 2007, will meet New Canaan at home on the weekend of Oct. 23-24 with Marinellis on both sidelines. It will be Greenwich’s homecoming.
“I don’t know which side of the field my wife will be on, but I’ll guarantee she’ll be wearing red,” Lou Marinelli said. “If you go on StubHub, there might still be tickets left.”
“My mom will definitely be on the Greenwich sideline, you can print that,” John Marinelli said. “I’m the baby boy. But this has been emotional, and that day will probably be more emotional than anything.”
John Marinelli works at Northwest Mutual in New York. He played for his father at New Canaan and was an all-state defensive back and quarterback in 2002. He helped his father’s program win back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002.
He played a postgraduate year at Canterbury School, where he was an all-league quarterback and safety, and, after a stop at Fordham, eventually landed at Trinity College, where he was a three-year starter and helped the Bantams to a NESCAC title in 2008.
He joined his father’s staff at New Canaan shortly after graduating.
John Marinelli has been responsible for developing all-state quarterbacks Turner Baty, Matt Milano, Nick Cascione and Michael Collins. He also had a hand in instructing New Canaan’s previous all-state quarterbacks Nate Quinn, Charlie Westfal and Curtis Casali.
In 2013, New Canaan set records en route to a 14-1 Class L championship season. He was named FCIAC assistant coach of the year.
- Amity — Bert Mozelous resigned | Ted Czepiga hired
- Bridgeport Central – Mike Farrell hired to replace Brian Gordon.
- Bristol Eastern – Mike Achrangelo resigned after season | Paul Phillippon rumored to return (unconfirmed)
- Bunnell – Doug Cotto fired at midseason
- Canton – Paul Phillippon resigned after three seasons, citing low numbers
- Coginchaug – John Bozzi resigns | Nick DeAngelo hired
- East Haven – Anthony Lucibello resigned at midseason | Melvin Wells hired
- Fairfield Prep – Tom Shea resigns, defensive coordinator Keith Hellstern hired
- Fitch – Jordan Panucci not renewed after season | Mike Ellis hired from Waterford
- Greenwich — Rich Albonizio pressured to resign after 18 years | NC OC John Marinelli hired
- Guilford – Tom Unger resigned | Morgan coach Mike Eagle hired
- Hyde – Melvin Wells resigns to take job at East Haven | Brandon McCormick hired
- Lyman Hall – Rob Marone fired at midseason | Interim Aiden Lynch hired
- Morgan – Mike Eagle hired at Guilford |
- Notre Dame-Fairfield – Ted Boynton resigned after two seasons | Chris Sadler hired
- Northwest Catholic – Mike Tyler retired at end of season | Brett Quinion hired
- Old Saybrook / Westbrook – Vacancy | Mike Marone hired
- Platt Tech — Jimmy Benjamin hired
- Simsbury — Jeff Osborne resigned | Dave Masters hired
- Waterford – Mike Ellis resigned after season | Assistant John Strecker hired
- Wilby – Geno Capuano resigned Jan 3 | Peter Flammia hired