After five years as the head football coach at William Paterson University, Larry Arico had reached the crossroads of his career. He was not retained as head coach after a 2-8 campaign that completed a less-than-stellar 9-41 record at the Wayne school.
Arico was replaced by former Rutgers assistant and Ramapo High School head coach Mike Miello, who then went and hired his long-time friend Ed Stinson, the former Hoboken mentor, to run the WPU defense.
It meant that Arico had to find another coaching job. He landed on his feet quickly, taking a job to become the new offensive coordinator at St. Peter's College.
But the position at SPC was part-time and that wasn't going to help pay the bills and raise his family. Arico's wife, Kim, is the head women's basketball coach at St. John's and the couple has a 3-year-old son, Trevor. He had to find something that was a little more stable than a part-time college assistant coaching job.
"The full-time coaching jobs are few and far between out there," Arico said. "I knew that. There are only so many full-time jobs out there."
Arico knew that Marist High School was looking for a new athletic director/football coach. His wife is close friends with New Jersey City University women's basketball coach Alice DeFazio, who just happens to be married to Marist girls' hoops' coach Bill DeFazio.
"I heard about the job through Billy, but I also heard that they might be looking in a different direction," Arico said. "I never really thought about it."
Ironically, one of the people who was interviewed for the position was Stinson, who ended up going to Arico's former stomping grounds in Wayne. In the game of football, the coaching cycle just seems to keep on spinning.
When Stinson decided that he wasn't interested in Marist, it left the school still without a football coach and athletic director. Finding someone to handle both jobs wouldn't be easy. But Arico was definitely qualified.
Arico was interested in the position at Marist, except for one thing. He never coached a day on the high school level. He was an assistant coach at FDU-Madison (now Florham) for eight years, then became the head coach at that school for three seasons before moving on to William Paterson for five years.
"Being on the high school level was something totally new to me," Arico said. "I had some experience being an assistant athletic director (at FDU), so I knew that I could handle that part. I think managing people is managing people, regardless of their age. I got a good sense of the Marist football program and decided this might be a good opportunity for me."
So Arico became the new grid coach and athletic director at the Bayonne school, hoping to bring some stability to a program that has been in a total state of flux, having gone four athletic directors and three football coaches in the past four years.
"I know that they haven't been where they want to be in recent years," Arico said. "The kids have been great so far. They're first class. They've been very respectful of me and I know they want to do well. They want to succeed and it shows in everything they do. I know the kids are excited, and frankly, so am I. I think the kids are hoping to have a nice stable situation for once."
Arico said that he hasn't noticed a difference coaching high school players as opposed to college ones.
"I think I'll be a lot more hands-on throughout the program," Arico said. "I think kids are kids. I don't think it's going to be a lot different. They're all football players, only these are just a little bit younger."
Arico was asked if his experience as a college coach will help with gaining the Marist players' respect.
"I don't think it hurts, but I think the kids want to see you prove it," Arico said. "I might have a reputation, but until I get out there and they see me teaching hands-on, then they won't know for sure. I know that they're passionate about football and I can feed off that. I'm also very passionate about coaching and what I do. I think they can tap into my knowledge, but it's good to have that knowledge behind me to back it up."
Arico was a standout running back at Pope John of Sparta who then went on to play college football at Lehigh, graduating there in 1992. He began his collegiate coaching career soon after and now embarks on his biggest challenge.
Marist hasn't enjoyed a winning football season in quite some time and will play as an independent once again this season, before rejoining the HCIAA in time for the 2006 football season. Rebuilding the Royal Knights' grid program is going to take some time and effort. It definitely represents a challenge.
But Arico feels that he walked into two huge challenges in each of his two prior head coaching positions at FDU-Madison and William Paterson.
"This will be the same way," Arico said. "I was able to catapult those programs towards respectability and get them on the right track. I was able to get things going. The kids want to see that you're committed. That's the first step. I know that (former head coach) Jack (Higgins) laid a nice foundation here in his one year. I know that there are things we have to do better. I'm just fortunate to get a chance to work with the good people at Marist. They have put their faith in me and it's a pleasure to work with them."
Arico already has a huge obstacle to climb. The Royal Knights' top returning player, running back Shariff Harris, has transferred to St. Peter's Prep. Arico will have to find someone else to carry the load this season in the backfield.
That's what the summer months are for - to get acquainted, to get accustomed. In what has been a constantly spinning revolving door for the last four years, Arico plans to offer stability. If he does that, then the first hurdle has been easily cleared.