GLEN RIDGE, NJ (corrected Tuesday July 11, 11:06 a.m.) – Joe Mazzarella feels he is ready to be a head coach.
When the opportunity came, he had to take it.
Not only did Mazzarella fulfill his dream, he won’t have to change schools.
After being an assistant boys’ varsity basketball coach for the Ridgers for the past three years, Mazzarella last month accepted the GRHS head girls’ varsity basketball coaching position.
Though he is saddened to leave the boys’ team, Mazzarella is looking forward to leading the GRHS girls’ program.
“It’s exciting,” said Mazzarella, who is a guidance counselor at GRHS. “But it’s also bittersweet. This will be my fourth year at Glen Ridge and all the boys that were with me since freshman year will be seniors. Leaving them is tough, but it’s just a great opportunity. It’s a new challenge for me. It’s a new chapter for me. I think I am definitely ready to be a head coach.”
Mazzarella, a 2005 New Providence High School graduate, was an assistant boys’ coach at Randolph HS before coming to GRHS. Mazzarella was thrilled to work with the GRHS boys’ varsity team under head coach Liam Carr, especially this past winter after the top-seeded Ridgers advanced to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 state tournament championship game where they lost to second-seeded University, 53-51, on a buzzer-beating putback to finish with a 23-6 record.
“I loved working with Liam,” Mazzarella said. “I’ve been an assistant for about five years. (I am) just ready be a head coach now.”
The GRHS girls’ team is coming off a successful season this past winter, finishing with a 18-9 record that included reaching the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 state tournament in which the fifth-seeded Ridgers lost a heartbreaking 37-36 decision to fourth-seeded Hoboken. It marked a nice turnaround season after the team went 6-17 in 2014-15 and 11-13 in 2015-16.
Mazzella acknowledges that it will be an adjustment to coach girls’ basketball. But what he really likes about coaching the GRHS girls’ team is the fact that most of the players are involved in other sports, such as soccer and lacrosse.
“They are really good athletes,” Mazzarella said. “They all play two or three sports throughout the year.”
Following their successful season, the Ridgers will be elevated from the Independence Division to the Colonial Division, which is the third highest of the five divisions in the Super Essex Conference.
The Ridgers currently are honing their skills while competing in the West Orange Summer League.
For his first year, Mazzarella cited winning the SEC-Colonial Division and making a good showing in the postseason as the key goals.
The long-term goal is to win state sectional titles. Mazzarella is familiar with the GRHS girls’ teams that were accustomed to winning conference titles and making deep state tournament runs in the 1990s, and that is something Mazzarella hopes to build as head coach.
“It’s definitely attainable,” he said.
Correction: University was the No. 7 seed in the section tournament.