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East Haven High School Principal Vincent DeNuzzo will be entering the East Haven Alumni Association Hall of Fame on Sunday, Nov. 18. Vincent, a 1996 graduate, was a standout athlete on the basketball court for the Yellowjackets, before taking the reins as head coach of the girls’ basketball squad. (Photo courtesy of Steve Narracci )
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East Haven High School Principal and North Haven resident Vincent DeNuzzo will be joining the East Haven Alumni Association Hall of Fame this weekend. Vincent, who graduated from East Haven in 1996, has served in virtually every capacity as a member of the Yellowjackets’ athletics family, whether as a student-athlete, a coach, or an administrator. Vincent says he’s looking forward to attending the Hall of Fame ceremony at Seasons in East Haven on Sunday, Nov. 18.
“It’s going to be a fun time. It’s great to be a part of. I go to the dinner every year, so this is an exciting time for me and my family,” says Vincent. “I’m humbled by the honor. It’s not something I ever really expected, but something I’m very appreciative of. I’m proud that they’re recognizing my team and efforts to keep East Haven moving in the direction everybody wants it to go.”
Vincent enjoyed a successful career on the basketball court in East Haven. During his senior year, he averaged 13.9 points per game while captaining the Yellowjackets. Vincent also set the school record for 3-pointers made in a season with 44, a mark that stood for seven years.
“My closest friends to this day are the kids I played with in high school. That’s the best part about being involved in a team sport. It’s not just playing a game you love, but forming relationships,” Vincent says. “That’s something I tried to bring with me to my years as a coach. It’s not just competing, but also the other stuff. Creating a family-like atmosphere is the most impactful thing that I had as a result of being an athlete.”
Vincent started coaching right after his playing days in East Haven came to a close. While he could have pursued a career on the basketball court at Albertus Magnus College, Vincent opted to attend Southern Connecticut State University to obtain a degree in education. That year, Vincent contacted then-East Haven boys’ basketball Head Coach John Gambardella to see if he could continue being part of the program.
“I told him I wanted to stay involved and get into coaching, and it just so happened that the freshman coach stepped down. So, in November of my freshman year of college, I got a call from him asking if I wanted to be the freshman coach,” says Vincent. “Being 18 years old and one year removed from playing, I was a high-school boys’ coach.”
After two years as the freshman coach, Vincent spent the next four seasons as East Haven’s boys’ JV coach. After that, the head coach position for the girls’ varsity squad opened up, and Vincent jumped on the opportunity. In the 2006-’07 season, Vincent led the Easties to the SCC Oronoque Division title and was named the All-Area Coach of the Year. He also coached girls’ tennis and cross country the high school, before entering into an administrative role. Vincent remains involved in basketball by working as a certified varsity referee. He’s also served on the board directors in the Sal Tinari Biddy Basketball League since 1997.
“In 2008, I had to make a choice to advance my professional career or stay in the classroom and continue to coach. It was probably one of the more difficult decisions I had to make,” says Vincent, who was hired as the social studies instructional leader for his district. “I did that for four years before becoming principal, and that was different for me. But it wasn’t until I became principal where you look at the athletics and the role it plays in the culture and climate of your school, and how important it is to the overall operations of the building.”
The Yellowjackets have continually seen more and more success throughout Vincent’s tenure as principal. As a former athlete and coach, Vincent enjoys seeing his alma mater thriving on the local sports circuit.
“This year, we’re having a good football season, so there’s a lot of excitement. There was a lot of student interest last year, when the girls’ basketball team won the state championship, so we had a great student turnout at games,” says Vincent. “Obviously, I miss the coaching, but it’s almost like you’re able to sit up and watch below and watch the kids and coaches do their thing to bring the school together, which is cool.”
Assistant Principal Susan Harkins says that Vincent has a tremendous passion for his hometown. Harkins believes that Vincent’s passion is evident in everything he does at the both high school and in the Yellowjackets’ community at large.
“When I think of East Haven High School, he’s the person you want to have as our leader. He is very committed to our students and their well-roundedness and success. He encourages them to get involved in clubs and activities, especially athletics, band, and drama,” says Harkins. “He’s also very supportive of our staff and encourages all of us to get involved and see our kids, watch them perform on the field or in an auditorium. He attends every event. You’ll see him watching a cross country meet, tennis match, band performance, and drama performance. His heart is with East Haven and our kids. This is his home.”
It means a lot to Vincent that so many of his fellow East Haven alums have gone on to forge successful careers at the high school after graduating. Vincent has great relationships with his colleagues and loves watching them guide the Easties to new heights.
“What is so important is so many of our coaches are East Haven alumni. I was a teammate with [Athletic Director] Anthony Verderame, the girls’ basketball coach Anthony Russell was a teammate of mine. The boys’ basketball coach [Ricky Narracci] was a year ahead of us. The baseball coach, the hockey coach, a lot of alumni are a part of our coaching staff,” says Vincent. “I’m not saying we only hire East Haven people, but I think when you bring East Haven people back into positions that they’re qualified for, they bring a different level of pride with them to their work, which is one of the reasons we’ve been successful in so many areas.”
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