Basile named new Nutley football coach

Photo courtesy of Tom Basile/ Long-time assistant coach Tom Basile has been appointed as the new head football coach at Nutley High School, replacing Steve DiGregorio, who resigned at the end of last season.


By Jim Hague

When Steve DiGregorio stepped down as the head football coach at Nutley High School at the end of the 2011 season, ending a sensational eight-year reign as the head coach at his alma mater, he made no bones about who he wanted to fill his shoes as head coach.

DiGregorio, who resigned to spend more time with his family, recommended his defensive coordinator and good friend, Tom Basile, to take over.

Last week, the Nutley Board of Education agreed with the former coach and appointed the 50-year-old Basile as the new head coach.

Basile has spent the last eight years as an assistant coach under DiGregorio and knows the kids, the program and the system.

“I’m just going to try to continue where Steve left off,” Basile said. “We want to keep the program going and keep all the hard work that Steve instilled into the program. He was the one who took the program to the next level.”

Basile, who has previous head coaching experience at Bergenfield, Boonton and Barringer, before coming to Nutley to join DiGregorio eight years ago, was happy to know that he had the backing of both DiGregorio and athletic director Joe Piro.

“It was very rewarding to know that they had that kind of confidence in me,” said Basile, who was the head coach at Barringer when they snapped a 56-game losing streak in the late 1990s, ironically defeating Nutley to snap the slide. “Just knowing that they were in my corner meant so much to me.”

Basile has enjoyed a rich coaching career that spans almost three decades. A native of Fort Lee and a graduate of Fort Lee High School, Basile started his coaching career at the now-defunct Paul IV High School in Clifton, then moved to Hoboken High.

From there, Basile went to become an assistant coach at Hasbrouck Heights, where he also became the head wrestling and baseball coach. As a wrestling coach, Basile had incredible success, winning four NJSIAA District and two state sectional championships.

Basile then started his head coaching career on the gridiron, leading Bergenfield for two years, Boonton for two and finally Barringer for four. Basile remains a teacher at Barringer.

“I was pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish at Barringer, having two 4-6 seasons my last two years,” Basile said. “I think that’s what prompted Steve to ask me to come to Nutley and join him.”

Basile was a major part of the rebuilding of the Nutley program, as the Maroon Raiders qualified for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs five times in eight years and advanced to the state championship game in 2010.
Now that the Maroon Raiders are established as a solid program, Basile wants to make sure it remains that way.

“We’ve virtually kept the same staff that we’ve had the last couple of years,” Basile said. “The kids are very happy about that. We’ve had kids who played a lot of playoff football in recent years, but we also have a lot of inexperienced players. A lot of them will play varsity football for the first time this season. But we have a good program and we’re fully capable to keep things going.”

Basile said that he never dreamed he would become a head coach ever again.

“I was happy being an assistant coach,” Basile said. “I didn’t think I’d ever be a head coach ever again. But I have to admit, it’s a little exciting. I’m enjoying a little bit of a rebirth. I really wanted this, but I probably wouldn’t want to coach anywhere else.”

Basile is not about to upset the cattle cart and institute new strategies for offense and defense. He knows that the Maroon Raiders, who finished 6-4 last season, have won 22 games and lost only 11 over the last three seasons. No need to change anything.

“Everything is going to continue to be the same,” Basile said. “We’re going to have the same spread look offensively, with the no-huddle look. I might infuse a little more option, but that’s about it. I don’t anticipate having many changes.”

Basile knows that this challenge will be different than his last three head coaching stops, where he had to rebuild entire programs.

“It’s the exact opposite now,” Basile said. “We have an established program here. We’re not starting from Ground Zero. I think we all have a feeling of confidence, because of where we’re starting from. It takes away a lot of the stresses and the interior pressure.”

Athletic director Piro is happy with the appointment of Basile.

“Tommy is a proven head coach and he’s been a big part of our success for a while,” Piro said. “He was a big part of turning this program around and a big part of the success. We interviewed some great candidates, but Tommy stood out. We’re excited about what he’s able to bring to the table. I think it was the right decision for a lot of reasons. Our program didn’t need to be rebuilt. It’s not like it had to be torn down and built up again. We expect Tommy to continue the success we’ve had. He’s a quality guy with good character. He’s the kind of guy we want to have around our kids.”

Basile definitely has a challenge ahead of him. Because of the Maroon Raiders’ success in recent years, they have been moved to a different division of the Super Essex Conference, as the lone Group III school facing Group IV powers like Livingston, East Orange, Montclair and parochial power Seton Hall Prep.

“It’s definitely a challenge, but I told the kids up front that we’re going to be ready for it,” Basile said. “There are a lot of challenges coming up.”

Another challenge will be no longer facing Belleville on Thanksgiving Day. The rivalry will continue, but will kick off the season this season instead of being played on Turkey Day. So Basile’s head coaching career at Nutley will begin against the neighboring rival. Losing the Thanksgiving Day game might hurt the traditional football fanatics, but it’s more than likely better for the players involved.

That might be the only big change that will take place in Basile’s tenure as head coach. The rest, hopefully, will remain status quo. If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it. Basile knows that better than anyone.

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