St. B’s Names
FITCHBURG -- It’s amazing, the rollercoaster of life: you never know the doors that will open.
For new St. Bernard’s boys’ basketball coach Paul Constantino, that is never more evident than this week, as he was named the new Bernardian bench boss on Wednesday morning.
Constantino, a Leominster native, replaces longtime head coach Mark Pierce, who stepped down from the position two weeks ago after citing irreconcilable differences between himself and the school administration.
Reached Wednesday evening, Constantino noted that he was thrilled to be the new coach, but that he enters with mixed emotions -- emotions that are sure to disappear once tryouts for basketball begin.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to coach the boys at St. Bernard’s,” he said during a 25-minute conversation with the Sentinel & Enterprise. “To be honest. I was torn and conflicted in applying. As you know, Mike (Constantino, his eldest child with his wife, Michelle) played for Mark and his staff; I coached his summer league team when Mike was a senior, and I scored a few games.”
Constantino met with the returning players briefly Wednesday morning.
St. Bernard’s athletic director Faith Merchant noted “Connie’s” pedigree as a high school coach and of being in the Harvard Street building as positives for his hiring.
“We were fortunate to have a few very qualified candidates and I would like to thank them all for their time during this process,” Merchant said. “Coach Constantino’s long and accomplished records as both a basketball and football coach certainly speaks for themselves.
“Having the luxury to observe Paul in our building as a theology teacher and currently on the football staff ultimately gave me the confidence that we were making the exact hire we were looking for to lead our student athletes in both the classroom and on the playing field.”
Constantino is no stranger to high school athletics at St. Bernard’s: for the last two years, he has been Kate DelleChiaie’s junior varsity basketball coach, and his three children, Mike, Erin, and Maggie, have all been Bernardians.
In addition, he is on Tom Bingham’s staff with the St. B’s football team, which will play for a Central Mass. Division 8 title on Saturday morning.
Before coming to St. Bernard’s, Constantino’s last head coaching job was at Clinton, where he was the successor to the legendary Archie Cataldi as the Gaels’ football coach. As Cataldi’s assistant, Constantino won six Super Bowl titles with Clinton; as the head coach at Clinton High, Constantino won a pair of titles.
But that’s not all. Constantino was the head boys’ basketball coach at West Boylston for 23 years, where his Lions were extremely competitive in the old Central Mass. Division 3. West Boylston won the Clark Tournament’s Small School bracket in 2007 and 2008 under his leadership. He stepped down after the 2011-12 season.
“That was a tough decision, but it was the right one. It was the right time,” Constantino said.
He also coached softball at Clinton in the 1980s and 90s.
After coaching for a few years in the 1970s, Constantino had entered the seminary but left after three and a half years in the early 1980s as he felt the pull of coaching still within him.
“I love to coach,” he said. “I consider it a vocation for my life.”
At the time, there were no teaching jobs open due to Proposition 21/2, so he took a counseling job with the Department of Corrections which he held until his retirement in August 2016.
He then accepted a theology position at St. Bernard’s.
And this was all while he coached basketball at West Boylston and assisted Cataldi at Clinton, before taking the head job on Route 110.
He stepped down as the Clinton head football coach after Thanksgiving 2016, and assisted DelleChiaie in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
This fall was Constantino’s first with the Bernardian football program.
Before his retirement, he had received the MIAA’s Sherman Kinney Award for Outstanding Contributions to High School Basketball in Massachusetts in 2015. Also that year, the Positive Coaching Alliance had named him a national finalist for its Gold Coach Award.
“I never envisioned (the St. Bernard’s job) coming around in 2015,” Constantino said. “I considered these as career achievement awards, and I’m humbled to be back in this position.”
In addition, North Middlesex Regional has announced its two new basketball coaches: Geoff Billingham will take over the girls’ basketball program after longtime coach Pat Murphy retired in September.
In addition, athletic director Cam Fisk is the new boys’ basketball coach on Route 119, after Mark Schultz stepped down in March.
With those hires in place, there are now no longer any coaching openings in north central Mass. for the upcoming winter season.