As a teacher of engineering drawing and architecture, Joe Gargione preaches precision and attention to detail.
So when Gargione decided to step down in mid-December as the head coach of the Princeton High football team, it is not surprising that his move was the product of careful deliberation.
“What I have been telling people is that it wasn’t just one reason, there are a couple of reasons,” said Gargione, who guided the Little Tigers to a 5-25 mark in his three years at the helm of the program.
“It was not a spur of the moment thing. It was a difficult decision. I felt it was better to take this path.”
For Gargione, a major factor in his decision was a desire to take a break from the coaching treadmill.
“Being a head football coach is like a second job, you are in the weight room in the winter and the spring and then you have the preseason starting in the summer,” said Gargione, 32, who is staying at PHS to continue teaching drawing and architecture.
“It is a year-round thing. I thought it was better to do this earlier rather than later so they could start the process of finding a successor and the kids will have someone in place maybe in January or February rather than in May.”
Gargione underwent some early struggles as the Little Tigers posted a 0-10 record in his first season at the helm.
“The first year was a learning experience,” said Gargione, reflecting on the 2010 campaign.
“Some guys come in for their first year, have a lot of luck and get off to a flying start. It was a really tough year for us. I was dealing with some key injuries and a lot of new players.”
After absorbing some tough lessons in that first year, Gargione developed a comfort level with his head coaching duties.
“The biggest thing is getting a handle on the logistics,” said Gargione. “In my first year, I was learning all the responsibilities and sometimes my head would be spinning just like a teacher in his or her first year. By the second year, I was much more comfortable and my system was in place. The last year was easier in regard to the logistics of being a head coach.”
With a better handle on things, Gargione got the Little Tigers going in the right direction. In his second year guiding the program, the Little Tigers were much more competitive, going 3-7 and coming close on other occasions as they lost three games by a combined total of 11 points.
In 2012, PHS dealt with some key injuries but still managed to beat a state playoff team, Northern Burlington, in the season opener and end the season with a win over New Brunswick in going 2-8.
“To go from 0 wins in 2010 to three in 2011 was great,” said Gargione, reflecting on the highlights of his tenure.
“To end with a win was good. It snapped an eight-game losing streak and it was great to see the seniors go out with a memory like that.”
As he steps away from the PHS football squad, Gargione can look back on a lot of good memories.
“I have been with the program eight years, five as an assistant and three as a head coach,” said Gargione, who has also coached track and baseball over his time at PHS and may consider getting involved with other sports.
“I didn’t step down from this job to take another job. I want to thank John Miranda [PHS athletics director] and the administration for giving me this opportunity. I want to thank my assistant coaches for all the hard work they put in.”
And PHS football owes Gargione thanks for the work he has put in over the years.