GREENWICH — John Marinelli said coaching football at Greenwich was the greatest honor of his life. That’s why the decision he made on Thursday was so difficult.
Marinelli, who served as coach of the Greenwich football team for four seasons, announced his resignation Thursday. He accepted a position as offensive analyst for the University of Arizona football team. A successful and popular coach, Marinelli broke the news to his team Thursday afternoon, sent an email to the Greenwich High School Football Alumni Group and announced his new career move on Twitter.
“As difficult as it is to leave, when it came down to it, I believe this is the right situation for me and the right time,” Marinelli told Hearst Connecticut Media Group of Thursday. “I’m very sad to leave Greenwich. Coaching this program and being a part of this great community has been a major part of my life.”
A new Canaan native, Marinelli compiled an impressive record of 36-10 during his tenure at GHS, including a 25-1 mark the past two seasons. He guided Greenwich to the CIAC Class LL title in 2018 – its first championship since the 2007 season.
The Cardinals posted a record of 13-0 this past fall, including a 34-0 win over rival New Canaan in the Class LL Tournament final – a game in which he coached against his father Lou Marinelli. He was named 2018 Coach of the Year by the New Haven Register/GameTimeCT and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
“Coaching football at Greenwich High School was the greatest honor of my life,” said Marinelli, who replaced previous longtime coach Rich Albonizio when he was hired in 2015.
“Gus Lindine is an outstanding athletic director and the amount of support our staff received from the school and the entire community was unbelievable. It was a hard decision. I could have been here for years like my dad has been with New Canaan.”
Marinelli will work for a University of Arizona coaching staff that is headed by coach Kevin Sumlin.
“I go from being the head man here to being the low man there, so I have to work my way back up,” Marinelli said. “I am looking forward to learning with great college football minds and seeing how they run a program.”
Greenwich held its annual Red and White football scrimmage this past Saturday, which was the culmination of its two-week spring football season. According to Marinelli, it was during this time that the coaching position at Arizona came up.
“I’ve turned down numerous coaching jobs during my tenure, but I went on an interview for this job and was totally blown away,” he said. “Like Greenwich, it is an environment that lends itself to being successful.”
Marinelli is getting married on July 20 and will soon head out to Arizona.
“I love the sport and I love high school football, I always will,” Marinelli said. “I wanted to do it full-time and for me, this is about challenging myself. I think this is best for my fiancé and I – though it is a scary time. It is an unknown for us, we are taking on new challenges, but it’s exciting to start something new.”
Lindine hired Marinelli in April of 2015. Prior to that, Marinelli was a part of his father Lou’s coaching staff at New Canaan for six seasons.
“John has been extremely valuable to our program the past four seasons,” Lindine said. “He set high expectations for our program and he handled the pressures of coaching with great maturity and integrity. I’m going to miss John’s passion, his enthusiasm and his out-of-the-box thinking.”
The rapport Marinelli shared with his high school players was one of his biggest assets.
“The relationship he had with his players was truly special,” Lindine said. “They appreciated and responded to his passion.”
Greenwich doesn’t have much time to hire a new coach, as the season officially beings in September, with training camp starting in August.
“We are going to go through the selection process and get it done as quickly as we can,” Lindine said. “It will be an aggressive timeline.”
Marinelli said he hopes the school hires a football coach from within the program and he said Greenwich assistant coach Anthony Morello is someone he believes can step into his former role.
“I think he (Morello) is a great fit,” Marinelli said. “He went to Greenwich, he played here, he was a freshman coach, junior varsity coach, offensive coach – I believe he is a tremendous fit.”
Informing the Greenwich team of his decision to leave to coach at the collegiate level wasn’t easy for Marinelli.
“While I am excited about the future, it was sad to see the faces of the kids today, it broke my heart,” Marinelli said. “They were shocked by it. It was a decision I went back-and-forth with.”
Greenwich had a record of 4-5 in Marinelli’s first season as coach, improved to 7-4 in his second season, then finished 12-1 in year three. This past fall, Greenwich fielded one of its best teams ever, as it dominated the opposition on its way to finishing 13-0 and earning the school’s first, final No. 1 ranking in the New Haven Register’s Top 10 poll.
“I’m proud of each senior class I had and it was nice seeing them realize their potential on and off the field,” Marinelli said. “Seeing that senior class go out with a state championship in the fall was a great feeling.”
Numerous players went on to play college football after leaving Greenwich’s program during Marinelli’s tenure – 42 to be exact – according to the Cardinals’ former coach.
Gavin Muir, who started at quarterback the past two seasons, will continue his career at Dartmouth College.
“Coach Marinelli had a great impact on me,” Muir said. “Coming in as a freshman, he talked to me like I was part of the varsity team, which stuck with me. He taught me everything how to play quarterback and he spent a great amount of time with me in helping me prepare to be the best quarterback I could be. I don’t think I would be going on to play college football if it wasn’t for him.
I’m sad that he’s leaving, but I’m happy for him and his family. This is a great opportunity for him and his coaching career and it’s one that he deserves.”
Indeed, Marinelli will miss his coaching days at Greenwich.
“The community, the alumni, the town, the support system – they all made it such a pleasure to coach here,” Marinelli said. “I was hired for a job in Greenwich that everyone wanted and I felt fortunate to get it. This community cares so much about the kids in the program – not wins and losses. They want to know each kid. I appreciate the support they gave our coaching staff over the years.”