Frank DiPiano looks upon his new office as the athletic director at St. Benedict’s Prep and the memories come flashing back. For the Nutley native, the office isn’t really new at all. It was where his father Mike Sr. was the athletic director and mother, Karen, was his secretary.
Now, it’s Frank’s turn to call that office his own as the new athletic director at the famed Newark school where he was once an All-American wrestler and was most recently its head wrestling coach.
“I always aspired to do something administratively,” said DiPiano, who has served in an administrative role at St. Benedict’s since 2015. “My father is everything to me. Watching what he did in coaching and the way he molded kids and the family that he has with his wrestlers. It’s one big family. I had a great guy to look up to.
“To now sit at his actual desk, his desk is still there and there’s still files in the desk that were his and those that succeeded him used. It really is an honor. And my mother was the secretary and there his entire time. They were in the same office all that time and now I’m in the same place.”
Mike Sr. spent 30 years at St. Benedict’s, serving as the school’s athletic director and also as its head wrestling coach, where he coached both of his sons.
Frank DiPiano initially served as an assistant coach for his dad before taking the head wrestling job at Nutley. During DiPiano’s 10 years as head coach, Nutley’s program reached unprecedented heights, winning back-to-back Essex County championships (2012, 2013) and four consecutive District 14 titles (2012-2015).
It was at Nutley, where DiPiano got his unofficial start in athletic administration as he spent plenty of time in the office of longtime Maroon Raiders AD, Joe Piro.
“I’m still close with Joe Piro. I spent a lot of time in the athletic office while at Nutley because I was the coordinator of in-school suspension,” said DiPiano. “I spent a lot of time in the athletic department and that was natural because I grew up in one at St. Benedict’s.
“Being able to help Joe (while at Nutley), it helped open doors for me being there for so long and the relationships I have now with other ADs in the county and the state. It’s helping make it an easy transition.”
A big part of the transition is building up a girls athletic program that is in its infancy. Girls sports were started in 2021 following the closure of Benedictine Academy.
“I told Father Ed (Leahy) I was excited to try to do things with the girls (teams) and we’re implementing some new things already,” said DiPiano of plans that include adding girls flag football as well as a field hockey club team. “St. Benedict’s has always tried to think outside the box, so with the girls especially, we want to try some new things.”
Building a foundation is far less of an issue on the boys side where the soccer team has won an incredible 14 national titles and its basketball team has won nine state titles in the last 11 years.
Overall, DiPiano knows it creates a great challenge – one that made him decide to step down as head wrestling coach – but one he takes pride in taking on.
It hits you that this is a big job,” DiPiano said. “It’s a very big job and it’s cool to me and it’s a great feeling that I’m able to come back and take a role at a place where I went to school and graduated from. It’s a lot of pride for me.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)