WESTPORT — Names have been uttered and whispered about, but the Staples High School football program is still without a head coach.
It’s been more than three months since Marce Petroccio, who coached the Wreckers for 25 seasons, resigned his position in order to take over the program at Trumbull, his alma mater.
Since then, according to sources close to the program, favorites and front-runners have come and gone, and the position has been offered a couple of times.
Nothing, however, has been finalized.
As of Tuesday, Staples is still without a coach as the end of the school year fast approaches.
Staples athletic director Marty Lisevick did not return multiple messages left for him, but in a text message to Hearst Media Connecticut he said the position would be filled “probably in a week.”
In the weight room, meanwhile, Wreckers keep pumping up the pounds even as they wait for the name of their future leader.
“I’m three months removed, so I’m not sure why it’s taking so long,” Petroccio said. “All I know is we left the program in great shape. It’s got great kids coming back, great leadership, some great linemen coming back. This program is still a very good job.”
Some of the names that have been associated with the job include New Canaan defensive coordinator Chris Silvestri, Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.) offensive coordinator Phil Treglia, Westport Youth Football coach Steve Borys, who coached for 14 years at Sleepy Hollow (N.Y.) High School, and Colby College offensive coordinator Dave Dunn, who coached at Masuk in Monroe from 1993-96.
According to sources, Silvestri and Treglia were both offered the position. Silvestri chose to remain at New Canaan while Treglia was unable to get a position within the Westport school system and turned the offer down.
Westport has also been going through budget turmoil with its teachers union and cuts that led to the threat of 160 jobs being lost. The budget process could have slowed the hiring process.
This offseason, other FCIAC job openings occurred in Wilton, Danbury, Brien McMahon and Bridgeport Central.
All have been filled.
Some have wondered if the Staples job is as good as advertised, and maybe wasn’t as appealing a post as it one was.
From 1997 to 2011, Staples won three state championships (2002, ’03, ’05) and finished as runners-up on five other occasions. Since 2013, though, Staples has made the playoffs just once and over the past two seasons has posted an 11-9 mark.
“No, the job hasn’t lost anything,” Norwalk football coach Sean Ireland said. “When you see Staples on the schedule, you know you’re in for a tough game. They’re still regarded, in my opinion, as one of the best teams in the league.”
Growing the program to its one-time prominence might be tough, however.
The Westport PAL youth program has seen its numbers plummet at the tackle football level, according to outgoing director Carmen Roda.
“We saw the numbers dropping early on when concussions started becoming an issue,” said Roda, who estimated his tackle football numbers were down 40 percent from the highest level they reached.
Roda, however, did help spearhead many concussion protocol safeties at the youth level and has always worked closely with the Staples High staff to help give the program continuity.
“We’re starting to see the numbers slowly crawl back up,” he added.
Petroccio said those numbers are the same statewide.
“Everybody’s seeing a decline in numbers,” he said. “It’s not just here in Westport but all over the state of Connecticut. Everybody’s in the same boat. It’s a serious, serious issue with parents.”
Roda agreed that Staples is still a prestigious job and Lisevick is doing his due diligence in getting the right man in place to lead the Wreckers.
“Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but I’m confident we’ll do it because of the synergy within the program,” Roda said. “Marce and I always have very similar philosophies and it was, look, we’ll give you all the tools to be success and go out and have fun with it. The only thing that will follow you is your name and how you represent yourself. We take pride in being a Wrecker.”
Petroccio said whoever finally takes over the program will be in a good place to continue its success.
“I think the program is still great,” he said. “So many factors go into making a program great. If you don’t have depth and one kid gets hurt, that’s something that can happen to a lot of high schools. That’s part of what has happened to us, but things go in cycles. Only four teams out of 140 win championships.”
Petroccio also felt that success is not solely measured in wins and losses.
“You have to be able to define what is success,” he said. “It’s also all about the experience and the way these kids leave the program. They’re proud to be football players — proud to be Staples High School players.”
Now those players just need a new coach to lead them.