STAMFORD — Chris Passamano’s past and future collided for the better part of 20 minutes Friday as Stamford met Norwalk in the 11th annual Grip It & Rip It 7-on-7 football tournament.
And the new head of the Black Knights athletic department, who once wore green, was there to witness it all.
Passamano, the former boys varsity swimming coach at Norwalk, was named athletic director at Stamford on Friday by Stamford Public Schools.
“Today was a great day,” Passamano said after leaving New Canaan High, site of the tournament. “It was a real emotional moment for me because my first act as athletic director was Stamford going up against Norwalk, my new kids against my old kids. It was real emotional.”
Passamano, a New Jersey native and Arizona State University graduate who has worked at Norwalk High for 12 years, coached swimming and baseball for the Bears. He worked as a special education teacher and spent the last two years as the dean of students at Norwalk.
One of his professional goals was to become an athletic director and now he gets to do that job in the city he calls home.
“It means the world to me,” Passamano said. “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work. The idea of having to help a whole entire program is really appealing to me and to do it in Stamford, where I live, makes it that much better.”
Passamano replaces Stamford coaching legend Jim Moriarty, who was no longer eligible to hold the position after Stamford Public Schools decided to require administrative certification for the position.
The new athletic director said not to expect too many wholesale changes in the short term.
“You know, I’m not the type of person that says we’re going to do this or do that and make bold proclamations,” he said. “I need to get in there, see everybody, meet everybody; find out what works, what doesn’t; see where you can make improvements on the field, the facilities.
“But I’m still an educator,” Passamano added. “We’re going to look at the things we can do to help our athletes graduate and live a successful life.”
Having worked for so long in a two-high school town, which included his overseeing a co-op swim team, Passamano said he is excited to work with Westhill athletic director Dick Cerone.
Cerone was retained in his position as athletic director.
“One of the beauties of coming from Norwalk is I understand how the two-high school system works,” Passamano said. “There are moments when we have to be rivals, but there are moments we have to be partners, as well.”
Saying goodbye to his Norwalk players was the toughest part of the equation.
“Oh my God, I didn’t anticipate how tough it was going to be,” Passamano said. “After I signed my contract, I had a meeting with the swim team, telling them I was leaving and it was one of the harder things I’ve had to do in a long, long time. I had tears. Same thing telling some of the baseball kids.”
With his Norwalk days now officially behind him, Passamano is excited to see what the future of Stamford athletics can do.
“Stamford has a huge, rich tradition — as rich as any school district in the county or state,” he said. “I’ll make sure we keep embracing that as we move forward.”