WILMINGTON — On Tuesday, Ed Harrison wrapped up 31 years in the Wilmington Public School system between being a teacher, coach and athletic director.
After retiring at the end of June of 2016 with 13 years under his belt as the AD, he returned this past year on an interim basis, filling in as a bridge year after former AD Tim Alberts left to take the same position at Triton Regional while paving the way for new AD Mia Muzio, who officially started today, July 1st.
Certainly over the course of the academic school year, Harrison was thrown a lot of curve balls, but as he always has throughout his career, he took those pitches in stride, with a smile on his face.
"I was extremely happy to return as Athletic Director but it was certainly a year of ups-and-downs. In the first two months, our trainer Melanie and our Administrative Assistant Heather left for new positions. I thought it had something to do with the old guy," he said with a laugh. "We were very lucky to get two outstanding candidates to replace them with Connor Holland as the trainer and Caroline Gattuso as the new Administrative Assistant."
After the rocky start, he said things settled down towards the end of the fall season and into the winter season.
"I felt the end of the fall and winter seasons went well and was looking forward to our spring season," he said, eluding to the pandemic ending that. "I have trouble putting into words how I feel about our student-athletes, especially our seniors, losing their opportunity to play this spring season.
“I keep falling back on looking at the bigger pictures and hope all of the student-athletes and coaches stay healthy and remain safe, and that we return to normalcy soon."
While he added Holland and Gattuso, Harrison also added Jeff Keefe as the new boys lacrosse coach, while, getting himself familiar with a handful of coaches who were hired during Alberts' tenure, including Craig Turner (football), Bruce Shainwald (volleyball), Christina Zuccaro (cheerleading), John Lapiana (girls hockey), Jessica Robinson (girls hoop) and Bill Manchester (girls lacrosse) — who Harrison previously spent time in the WHS Football program — as well as a totally new program, co-ed/co-op swimming, joining with North Reading.
Shainwald has since resigned and currently the varsity and JV Volleyball positions are open.
While Harrison adjusted to new coaches, he remained in contact with the people who assisted him with his everyday duties.
"There are so many people I need to thank. First I would like thank Superintendent (Glenn) Brand, Principal (Linda) Peters, for allowing me to come back. The two of them along with Assistant Principals (Jonathan) Merenda and (Chris) Phillips assisted me whenever needed throughout the school year.
"The job was easier to come back to because of the great people that you deal with on a day-to-day basis, including George Hooper of Public Buildings, Paul Dacko and John Carroll at the high school, Jamie Magaldi from (the Department of Public Works) and Scott Bruce and his team, who are always there to help.
"I have to thank our new administrative assistant Caroline Gattuso, who came in halfway through the fall season and has been fantastic. I also have to thank our faculty managers Pat Taylor and Aldo Caira, who have both done an outstanding job with game management. As an Athletic Director, I sincerely believe I have the best group of coaches in the league. They work hard, they are respected, they take care of our athletes and they care about them as well-beings.
"I know and realize I am forgetting people who have been there for us, but one final Thank You goes out to the Wilmington Sons of Italy for their overwhelming support to Wildcat Athletics."
Before replacing Jim Gillis as the AD, Harrison attended WHS and played football and baseball and graduated in 1969. He then attended UMass-Amherst and graduated with a degree in Physical Education and a minor in Biology.
The following year he returned to WHS where he was an assistant football coach from 1974-1981 working under two Hall of Fame Coaches, Fred Bellissimo and John Ritchie, before taking over as the head coach from 1982-1993. Among Harrison's highlights as coach was the 1990 team which went 5-5 despite dressing just 17-18 players for the entire season. He was named the Lowell Sun's Coach of the Year.
In addition, Harrison was also the head softball coach for two years in 80 and '81, compiling a record of 16-13, served as the Freshmen Baseball coach for 11 years and the JV Baseball coach for one season. He left WHS for the 12 years after 1993, and came back as a physical education teacher before being named the fourth AD following Larry Cushing, Jim Martin and Jim Gillis.
During his first tenure at WHS, Harrison oversaw over 50 athletic programs for a high school that has just under 1,000 students. He added three varsity sports, four subvarsity programs, and was instrumental in the athletic department leaving the Cape Ann League for the Middlesex League.
And now he is removed from the sports world, again.
"For me, it's time to move on again as I do not perform well in the new remote world," he said with a laugh.
Muzio, 30, ended her time as the interim Athletic Director at Weymouth High School since September, will become the school's sixth official Athletic Director and first female, following Larry Cushing Sr., James Martin, Jim Gillis, Ed Harrison and Tim Alberts.
Back in March, Muzio was named after being one of the three finalists along with Brian Caira, a Wilmington Middle School Teacher, and Mike McCaffrey, the current Athletic Director at Windham, New Hampshire High School.