By Jeff Appelblatt
While the basketball coach at Colonia High School, Christopher Chiera prepared for the season by the time November rolled around. It’s what he was familiar with for the last decade — the span the special education teacher was the team’s head coach.
He had a successful run with the Patriots, but now Chiera shifts to a different role.
In July, Chiera made the move a few miles south to Woodbridge High School, where he was named one of the school’s assistant principals.
But leaving the team he led to four Greater Middlesex Conference division championships and two state sectional championships was not the simplest departure, yet it was a simple move to make.
“It’s a bittersweet transition for me,” the Colonia resident said. “It was a goal of mine to become an administrator.”
Even though he won’t be on the sideline for Colonia’s team anymore, Chiera is happy he got to hand over the position to the team’s newest coach.
“Colonia Principal [Kenneth] Pace and [Athletic Director] Ben LaSala made a good move hiring Brandon Hall,” Chiera said. “He’s someone I’ve grown with, and he’s one of my good friends.”
Hall played basketball for Chiera and the Patriots before he graduated in 2008. After attending Saint Peter’s University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history, Hall went back to Colonia and helped out his former coach.
Overall, Chiera is confident he’s in a good enough position to think of coaching at Colonia as nothing more than a past experience.
“I’ll still be able to go to games, but it was time to move on,” he said. “I’m very happy where I am.”
And even though the high schools at Woodbridge and Colonia are known rivals in the sports world, Chiera said that everyone at Woodbridge has been nothing but accepting of him.
“The Barron family has been nothing but friendly in accepting me into their family,” Chiera said. “Principal [Glenn] Lottmann and the rest of the staff have been so nice.”
In turn, the move to cheering for Woodbridge’s teams, which already took place in the fall, has been a simple change for Chiera.
”I’ll be at most of Woodbridge’s games,” he said. “It’s exciting for me to see these kids I see regularly, out there.”
He plans on catching some Colonia games, too.
“Occasionally, I’ll get to Colonia and watch my friend and that [basketball] team,” Chiera said.
But the athletes the assistant principal is eager to see play the most are his own kids.
“My family — I’ve gone through not being able to see their activities when I was coaching,” he said about his wife and three children. “Not saying this job is less work, but I’ll have more time to see my children getting involved. I’ll be able to get involved in some of their sports.”
Chiera anticipates having a full enough schedule not to miss coaching basketball too much. But without the ability to predict the future, he won’t dismiss the possibility of calling out plays from the bleachers.
“Maybe I can’t say right now how I’ll feel when basketball starts,” the assistant principal said. “I’ll know how I really feel when things get started.”
Woodbridge’s boys basketball team has its first regular-season home game Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. against North Brunswick Township High School. Meanwhile, Colonia takes the court at home vs. Sayreville War Memorial High School Dec. 22 at 7 p.m.
If Chiera attends either or both, his goal is to be nothing more than a face in the crowd.