Bifulco leaves native Kearny for Millburn AD job

He’s spent more than 30 years of his life in the Kearny school system.

“I went to grade school here, high school here, taught here, coached here,” Frank Bifulco said. “It’s all I know. I played Little League here. It’s tough to leave.”

But recently, Frank Bifulco did the toughest thing he’s done in his young life.

“It was tough to write that resignation letter,” said Bifulco, who spent the last five years as the Kearny High School baseball coach. “There was a lot of emotion in that letter.”

Bifulco is stepping down as the baseball coach to become the athletic director at Millburn High School.

The idea started in 2009, when Bifulco attended New Jersey City University to receive his Master’s degree in education administration.

“One of my professors asked me if I wanted to be a principal or a vice principal,” Bifulco said. “That wasn’t my main goal. I told him I was looking forward to becoming an athletic director. That’s what I wanted to be. I love sports and I love being around the athletes. Growing up, I had a role model like Mr. (John) Millar (the Kearny AD). That’s who I wanted to be like. That’s what I wanted to pursue.”

Bifulco was asked how Millburn got into the picture.

“It was just coincidence,” Bifulco said. “I heard there was an opening there, so I put my name into the hat. I applied for the position in October and I had my first interview soon after that. Everything just worked out. One thing led to another and then another and I guess the stars were aligned, because I got the job.”

Bifulco was more than aware of Millburn’s vast successes in athletics.

“Their baseball team just won the Group IV state title and their girls’ tennis team is excellent,” Bifulco said. “They have a great variety of sports they compete in an all-around basis. No one on their staff is afraid to work. They’re ready to go to work and I’m excited about going there.”
Bifulco starts as the Millburn athletic director July 1.

Bifulco was told he was being hired in May, but still had to worry about the baseball season, which ended in disappointing fashion last week with a loss to Ridgewood in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV playoffs.

“To be honest, it got pretty hectic there for a while,” Bifulco said. “The decision was already made and my staff knew what was going on. I kept thinking that if it happened, then it would all be gone. So I wanted to enjoy this season as much as I could before I moved on to another chapter of my life. Everyone was so supportive the whole way. I told Mr. Millar and he was disappointed I was leaving, but he understood.”

Then came the hardest part. Bifulco had to tell his players that he was indeed leaving.

“I didn’t want them to hear about it from anyone else,” Bifulco said. “Sometimes stories get mixed along the way. I wanted to tell them the truth. It was an emotional time. Some tears were shed. We had a lot of good times and we had some bad times, but we stuck through it together. This group of kids is very mature. They knew that it was something I had to do professionally. They knew that if I didn’t get an administrator’s job that I’d still be coaching them.”

Bifulco said that he has had a chance to “sit back and reflect” on his five years as a head coach, his years as an assistant to his friend and mentor Jim Sickinger, his years as an athlete, helping the Kardinals win their last state sectional title, the North 1, Group IV crown in 2002, his years as a Kearny boy through and through.

“To me, it’s all a humbling experience,” Bifulco said. “It’s a move in my career that had to be made. Looking back, I have no regrets.”

Bifulco wishes that the Kardinals would have had a better record this season than the 12-15 mark they put up.

“We had a lot of expectations, then we had a stretch where we had all those one-run games,” Bifulco said. “And we ended up on the losing end. Our goal was to win a championship and it should be when you put on a Kearny uniform. You should strive to win. We created memories this year. This baseball team was a pleasure to coach. We had a blast.”

Bifulco gave credit to his coaching staff of Anthony Policano, Jeff Caputo, Scott Millar, Dave Smart and Doug Gogal.

“I’m grateful and thankful for those guys,” Bifulco said. “They’re not just coaches. They’re friends. They gave all they had for those kids. When I was an assistant with Sick, I learned so much. I always had them to provide support. I received so much support from everyone.”

Bifulco said when he took the job, he wanted to start a program for seventh and eighth graders and recreation director Ralph Cataffi obliged.

“Ralph was a big help,” Bifulco said. “I wanted to do clinics and run the summer camp. I established a relationship with the Little League. I do leave with my head held high. I worked hard, but I’m so grateful to the people who helped me along the way.”

During his stint as head coach, Bifulco married his wife, a Kearny girl Kaitlyn and they recently had a baby girl. So his life is intact.

But his professional life will now have a different address in Millburn.

“I’ll miss Kearny,” Bifulco said. “I really will. It’s been my life.”

But it’s time to move on.

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”