BLOOMFIELD, NJ – For Bloomfield High School boys basketball fans, a familiar face will be roaming the sideline during the season this winter.
Mike Passero was promoted to head coach for the Bengals. Passero served as Pat Brunner’s assistant coach for the past 10 years. Brunner recently stepped down as the head coach after a successful 13-year tenure, accepting the athletic director position at Mountain Lakes HS.
Passero, indeed, is looking forward to leading the Bengals.
“It feels great,” said Passero of being named the new head coach, during an interview last week with The Independent Press. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to continue to build on the success that Pat has had. I’m also really happy for Pat and both us kind of taking the next steps in our career; him professionally as an administrator and myself moving forward to becoming a head coach.”
Passero and Brunner go way back. Passero played basketball for Brunner at Verona HS. Following his graduation from Verona in 2000, Passero attended Montclair State University where he played quarterback for the football team.
Brunner had been the head coach of the Bengals since the 2005-06 season, leading the Bengals to two North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 final appearances in 2013 and 2017, winning it in the latter season. In addition to Bloomfield and Verona, Brunner also coached at Elizabeth HS.
Indeed, Brunner always had a big influence on Passero.
“His influence on me, it’s hard to put into words,” Passero said of Brunner. “He was my coach for four years at Verona High School, so we go all the way back to then. Our relationship has been great; our families are really close. He’s been as good of a mentor as you can have; just the way he carries himself, very professional. Pat has meant so much to me. I don’t think there’s a better coach to be around for the last 10 years to really learn from, and to be under their wings. For that, I’m very thankful.”
With Passero in charge, the Bengals are in good hands. Passero’s enthusiasm for the Bengals is boundless. Plus, the team returns a good nucleus, with such returning starters as rising senior guards Mike Ramos and Will Robinson.
“I’m very excited about the future,” Passero said. “Next year, we bring two returning varsity starters, but also a lot of upperclassmen that have been in the program and understand the expectations and what’s expected of them, so I think that transition will come very nicely, to becoming full-time varsity players.”
Sure, success on the court is a main goal for the team. But for Passero, developing good character in the student-athletes is his ultimate objective.
“It’s really about the kids and it’s about the program; and continue to do the things the right way; have our players be great citizens and good students,” he said. “All of those things kind of lead to having success on the basketball court.”
The Bengals are currently hosting their annual Summer Basketball League that runs until the end of the month.