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The legendary Steve Filippone recently resigned from his second stint as head coach of the Hand football team. Filippone notched 223 wins and claimed seven state titles during his tenure as the Tigers’ head coach. (Photo courtesy of Steve Filippone )
Steve Filippone is hoping to remain a part of the Tigers’ football program in an assistant coach capacity after recently stepping down as the team’s head coach. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
The Daniel Hand football team didn’t get to experience a season last fall, and now the Tigers are also without a head coach. Steve Filippone, who coached the team for 27 seasons, resigned from his second stint as the team’s head coach on Jan. 22, signaling the start of a new era for the program.
In 2016, Filippone retired as head coach of the Hand football team following an exceptional run in which he recorded 223 victories and guided the Tigers to seven state championships. Dave Mastroianni then took over as the Tigers’ head coach until resigning in February 2020.
At that point, members of Hand’s athletic program reached out to Filippone to gauge if he was interested in returning to the team for a second stint as head coach. Filippone accepted the offer, but informed the program that he would only serve as head coach until the school found another coach to helm the program.
After the 11-on-11 fall football season was canceled, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) formulated a plan to hold a shorter alternative season in March and April. However, when the CIAC recently released its plan to play the delayed winter sports season, it also announced that the proposed alternative season would not take place due to time constraints.
With football now officially off the table for the current school year, Filippone decided to tender his resignation to ensure that the Tigers had sufficient time to hire their new coach prior to the start of 2021 fall campaign.
“I only took the job to fill a void that was created there,” said Filippone, 64. “With COVID, the fact that we didn’t have to play any games—it gave us plenty of time to figure out how they were going to make the transition. This now gives someone a chance to build their own program from the ground up.”
Filippone would like to be involved in the hiring process of any new candidates and is hoping that Hand’s athletic department will take his opinion into consideration when it names the new head coach. Filippone also wants to stay involved in the program in a different role if possible.
“The posting is up. It’s open to anyone in the country,” Filippone said. “We’ll be able to set a course that’s long term with a new coach. The course with me was going to be short term no matter…I’d also like to stay on and coach at Hand as an offensive line and linebackers’ coach. I don’t want to leave the game.”
Overall, Filippone coached at Hand for 37 seasons, serving as an assistant coach for 10 years before taking the head coach’s job. The Tigers hold a special place in Filippone’s heart, and that’s why he doesn’t want to put football behind him just yet.
“I realized what a special place Hand is this year,” said Filippone. “I want to be a position coach next year. I haven’t been a position coach in a long time, and it’s certainly less stressful. I can go home at the end of every night with a pretty clear mind.”
Another reason why Filippone wants to stay on as an assistant coach is because of the relationship that he’s developed with his current players. Although they only spent a limited amount of time together, Filippone said that Hand’s athletes have had a significant impact on him.
“I got to know these kids this year, and they’re fabulous young men,” Filippone said. “If you look at our program over the last 50 years, we’ve had a lot of peaks and valleys. I know this program is capable of reaching one of those peaks again with these kids. One of my goals in leaving this position was that everyone on my staff was going to stay once I stepped down as head coach. If one of them gets the job and the other doesn’t, we all agreed that we were going to be selfless and be here for the kids next season.”
Looking ahead to the 2021 season, Filippone knows that the Tigers and other football teams around the state are going to be behind the curve, because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from being able to bring along their young talent on the field last year.
“What COVID did—and it did it to everybody—was it didn’t allow us to develop young talent,” said Filippone. “Come September, only a handful of kids are going to have varsity experience, but that’s how it’s going to be across the board.”
Even though he’s no longer the Tigers’ head coach, Filippone plans on staying in his teaching position at the high school. With a little more time on his schedule, he also plans on enjoying some golfing and fishing when the weather gets warm.
“I’m 64 now. I want to be able to spend time doing what I love,” Filippone said. “I love golfing, and I love fishing. I’ve got a small boat, and I enjoy my time on the water.”