Governor Livingston coach J.R. Lubisco, who is making his head-coaching debut, discusses his adjustment to the top job, the Highlanders’ impact players and more.
Q. After 10 years as an assistant at Dunellen, what’s it been like running your own team?
A. It’s been a great experience. The community has opened their arms to me, and the kids have been amazing. For some upperclassmen it must have been tough losing their coach. Terry (Hanratty) ran a great program and I’m stepping in here with a great opportunity. Running my own program is something I did in track, but football is different — it’s 365 days a year. The preseason has been full of enthusiasm.
Q. What are the biggest things you’ve borrowed from working under Dave DeNapoli at Dunellen?
A. One of the biggest things he did was to be self-critical — look at our staff and our team and say, ‘Hey, we need to fix that.’ I also think patience with the athletes. You know kids are going to make mistakes. It’s our job to help them through the tough times of being a kid. Bottom line: Winning games is the fun part but you’re trying to help the kids through life. Football can be a great carrot to help them in the classroom and getting through things.
Q. What role will track star Mike Murphy play?
A. Murph is the most dynamic athlete. We know we have an explosive player there. He was more of a receiver in the past offense. (Being a wingback) is going to take some getting used to, but his speed is something we can’t teach. We had (all-state back and sprinter) Rontik Sadler running it in Dunellen, so we know what the offense can do with an explosive player like that.
Q. Who are the other impact players?
A. Ryan Jennings is a baseball star, a tremendous athlete with a tireless work ethic. He’s going to help us everywhere on the field. Anthony Natale is a wild card. He’s had some trouble staying on the field with injuries, but he’s a big kid who’s fast. I don’t know exactly what he’s going to give us yet, but he could surprise some people. And we have five big senior linemen.
Q. Your new defensive coordinator, Tom Reynolds, was a highly regarded assistant at Somerville. How did you guys end up connecting?
A. After all that stuff went down at Somerville I was in the market for a defensive coordinator. I waned to handle the offensive stuff myself and have a veteran defensive coordinator. We knew some of the same people, and Tom reached out to me. He came highly recommended and we clocked right away. He’s a history teacher and I am too. He also was very successful as a track coach. And last year he played seven of the teams we’re going to play this year. So it’s a real nice fit.