Ed Gurrieri made the best decision he ever made 23 years ago. He had recently retired from the New York Police Department and decided to move his family out of Staten Island, N.Y., and to Manalapan.
He had experience as a football player and coach when he was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Manalapan High School football team for the 1997 season.
After seven strong seasons as the Braves’ defensive coordinator, which included helping the squad reach the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 championship game in 2003, Gurrieri was named Manalapan’s head coach.
The rest is history.
Two head coaching stints that totaled 13 seasons saw Gurrieri lead Manalapan to 109 wins, five Shore Conference A North Division titles and the program’s only state sectional championship in 2014.
On June 2, Gurrieri decided he needed to step away from the sidelines and he resigned from the position he held since taking the reins of the Braves for the second time in 2010.
“It was something I have been contemplating for a bit,” he said. “The combination of possibly not having a season this fall (due to the coronavirus pandemic) and not having that same itch I would usually have with coaching made me feel it was the best decision for me to take a break and step back.”
Gurrieri is a Staten Island native and was a three-year starter at running back at Susan E. Wagner High School.
After attending Northeastern University in Boston for two years, Gurrieri returned home and enrolled at Wagner College on Staten Island. He graduated in 1983 with Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, with a minor in special education.
Gurrieri was a two-year starter at Wagner. From 1985-87, he was the running backs coach at his alma mater. He taught at Susan E. Wagner High School before he joined the NYPD.
Gurrieri served on the police force from 1986-93 and worked with the organization until 1997. He played fullback for the NYPD football team from 1988-90 and served as the squad’s offensive coordinator from 1991-96. The NYPD football season is played during the spring.
Prior to moving to Manalapan, Gurrieri served as the offensive coordinator for his high school alma mater.
Gurrieri went 19-12 in his first stint as Manalapan’s coach from 2004-06. Several years later, when he took the reins for the second time, he led Manalapan to a decade of great success.
Manalapan went 90-23 in the next 10 seasons under Gurrieri, winning five straight division championships from 2010-14 and reaching six state sectional championship games, the last coming in 2017.
The Braves reached the sectional final for four consecutive years from 2011-14.
Gurrieri said his fondest memory of his coaching career at Manalapan was leading the team over the hump by defeating South Brunswick High School, 21-17, in the 2014 NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 5 final to win the program’s first and only state sectional championship.
“My coaching staff and I are proud of the program we built and the foundation that is in place for the team to have continued success moving forward,” he said. “We are just as proud of the number of kids we have sent off to college as the number of wins we have gotten over the years.”
Manalapan’s sectional championship victory helped Gurrieri be named Central Jersey Coach of the Year by the New Jersey Football Coaches Associations.
He earned Coach of the Year honors from the Shore Conference Football Coaches Association in 2011 when the Braves recorded a 10-2 season.
In 2019, Gurrieri was inducted into the Shore Conference Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame.
This will not be the end of the line coaching-wise for Gurrieri, who indicated he plans to be back on the sidelines sometime in the near future. He said he will remain at his post as a security guard at Manalapan High School.
What will he do with his free time? Gurrieri said he will fill it with, you guessed it, football. He hopes to go watch Manalapan alumni Anthony Firkser, who plays tight end for the Tennessee Titans, in a game during the 2020 season.
Manalapan alumni Saeed Blacknall has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Gurrieri said he would try to go see the wide receiver play during the 2020 season if Blacknall makes the team.
Going to see former players who are currently playing in college is something else Gurrieri said he would enjoy doing during the 2020 season.
As for the members of the 2020 Braves, Gurrieri sent the team a heartfelt video message on the morning he announced he was stepping down from his post. He told the young men to keep the same goals in mind, which include winning a state championship.
“I won’t be surprised if the team has a great year,” Gurrieri said. “There are a lot of great kids on the team and a lot of talent coming up in the program.”
It was 1997 when Gurrieri and his wife, Debbie, made the decision to move their family to Manalapan. They watched their children, Michael, Eddie and Nicole, benefit from growing up in the town and go on to bigger and better things, while Gurrieri built Manalapan into one of the premier football programs in the Shore Conference.
Moving to the Garden State was the best decision Gurrieri said he ever made, and he will always remember the people who were around him at one time or another during the last 23 years.
“Our program had a family atmosphere more than anything else,” he said. “Manalapan is a great community. I will always remember the relationships I made with the coaches, players and their families.”