STONINGTON — After five years as Stonington High's boys basketball coach, John Luzzi has resigned and will be making some big changes in his life.
"Me and my family are moving to Florida," Luzzi said. "We just wanted to give it a try. We vacationed there a few times and always thought how cool it would be to live in a warm climate.
"My wife lived in Florida when she was younger and we always talked about going back."
Luzzi, a physical education teacher at Clark Lane Middle School in Waterford, will also be changing careers to work in the insurance industry.
Luzzi, 49, a Westerly High graduate, has extensive family that lives in Westerly.
"This has been really hard for me, a very difficult decision," Luzzi said.
Stonington is coming off its most successful season in a number of years. The Bears shared the ECC Division III championship with St. Bernard, their first divisional title since 2009. The Bears lost to the Saints in the ECC D-II tournament championship game at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Stonington put together two wins in the Division IV state tournament before losing by a basket in double overtime to St. Joseph's in the quarterfinals.
Stonington finished the season 19-7, the most wins since the Bears were 20-7 in 2011. The Bears were 53-59 during Luzzi's five years.
Luzzi said he is proud of where the program now stands.
"What stands out to me the most is how we came in and how we are going to go out," Luzzi said. "When I got here, we were coming off a 3-17 season, there was no air in the basketballs and no practice jerseys.
"This season we were one basket from the semifinals. The last three or four games our gym was a place where everybody wanted to be. My dream was to take Stonington basketball to a state championship. The future here is so bright. I am proud of what we have accomplished."
Luzzi said he believes in having a passion for the sport.
"You have to be all in for the community and the kids," Luzzi said. "Emotion breeds fire in kids. My kids never questioned the emotion and passion I had for them and this program."
Stonington athletic director Bryan Morrone said Luzzi's passion was a big reason he became the coach.
"John was hired at a time where Stonington basketball was struggling," Morrone said. "And my hire was based on his passion for basketball and his desire to bring the program back to life. In my mind, he accomplished that goal and he leaves us in a good place moving forward."
Luzzi said one of the biggest challenges of coaching the sport is the time it takes up during the season.
"The toughest part is being away from the family. I know a lot of other coaches would say dealing with [players'] parents, but I didn't have a lot of that," Luzzi said. "I would just like to say a big thank you to our players, the AD, principal, staff and teachers at the school."
Morrone expects to have a new coach in place before the school year ends in June.