After 10 years coaching basketball in Wilton — the previous five as both the head and assistant coach of the Warriors — Rob Coloney moved to South Bend, IN, last year to work as the director of graduate career services at Notre Dame. A huge Irish fan, Coloney recently got the opportunity to move back here and maintain his position.
It was good timing: the Ridgefield girls basketball job was open. Coloney was recently hired to coach Wilton’s biggest rival.
TRR: You left the area last year to work in South Bend for Notre Dame — you are a huge Irish fan. What brought you back?
RC: The opportunity to have a positive impact on the students that I served at Notre Dame. I’ve been given a good challenge to come try and work on developing relationships with employers between Boston to DC, to hire our PHD and Masters students, so it is fortuitous that I will be centrally located between those two points and have an opportunity to bring the university to a new level in terms of potential outcomes.
TRR: Was it difficult to give up coaching at the high school level?
RC: Yeah, it was. I was fortunate during my time in Indiana to stay involved so I actually was an assistant at Mishawaka High School. They play in the oldest functioning gym in the whole state of Indiana. Having an opportunity to coach high school basketball still, not as a head coach but still be involved, especially in the birthplace of basketball, was pretty cool. I also had the opportunity to lead the Notre Dame women’s club basketball team. That was the first year that team existed and I had a really good group of young women and we went to the national championships.
TRR: You come home and the Ridgefield girls basketball job is open. You have to be excited about that possibility?
RC: Thrilled. Obviously if I’m going to be back in the area and had an opportunity to coach I don’t think there is a better league in the state than the FCIAC and to be honest with you I think the Ridgefield job is one of the premier jobs in the state. Longstanding basketball tradition but the sports tradition as a whole. It’s a community I’m really excited to get involved in and learn how to navigate, and I think the passion they have for their student-athletes is pretty evident. I saw it as an opposing coach and I’m really excited to immerse myself in it as their coach.
TRR: Ridgefield had a good run to the FCIAC semifinals last winter with a very young team. How much do you know about their returning players?
RC: I know a lot about them because I followed them when I was still with Wilton. We had a great game against them that went to overtime. I think we won 51-45 and that team had Caroline Curnal and all sophomores and freshmen. Those student-athletes are still here and I’m really excited about people who want to be part of something. It’s one thing to understand that they have a large number of returning players, there’s a lot of girls with experience and all that stuff is great, but we’re going to do things a little differently. We’re going to try and build this culture of communication and fun and hard work, and a lot of the same things that worked really well for us in Wilton. Last year they had 35 student-athletes in the program that didn’t have any seniors. There is an immense feeder in the RBA, which is a terrific youth organization and one that I’ve been watching for years and have a lot of respect for and the great work that they do to get student-athletes involved with basketball. Really that’s what it’s about. The high school team is the ultimate goal for a lot of these young people, boys or girls, but we want everybody, whether they are in third grade or 12th grade, to feel like they are a part of this program. Is there talent? Of course. But what I’m most excited in is the interest.
TRR: You have been getting teased a little on social media by Wilton players about going to their biggest rival. Do you think it will be strange when you coach against your former team?
RC: Of course it will. I will never be afraid to say that I love the town of Wilton. I love the people that welcomed me into that community and one of the hardest things I ever had to do was leave that job because I really took a lot of pride in it, and I took a lot of pride in the relationships that I had an opportunity to develop with those people. I was given a tremendous opportunity here to lead another program and it just so happens one of the greatest things about high school sports is that there are these fun rivalries that you get to be a part of and this is just one of those. I don’t have any malice. Kids will always joke and tease and I can handle getting poked fun at. My decision to pursue the Ridgefield opportunity was because I truly believe it is a great opportunity. I always had respect for their program and their high school as a whole. I will always respect Wilton and every opponent that we have. It’s going to be awkward I’m sure because of the memories I have from Wilton. Am I excited that I will have a chance to play Wilton? Absolutely. That’s fun. That’s what’s great about sports. It is perhaps fortuitous that our game against them is the final day of the season. That’s interesting. I think if I was drawing the story up I’d play them right away to get it over with.