Tom Passafaro is a financial literacy teacher at Sayreville War Memorial High School.
He teaches students literal life skills like opening and managing a credit card or bank account.
Now he will also teach students figurative life skills like individual character and committing yourself to larger communal causes.
Passafaro is Sayreville’s new boys’ basketball coach.
He took over for former Sayreville coach John Wojcik after the 2018-19 season. The Sayreville Board of Education approved Passafaro’s hiring at its May 21, 2019 public meeting. The head varsity basketball coach position will pay Passafaro $10,129 during the 2019-20 school year.
The 31-year old coached the Bombers’ junior varsity team last year, and he knew that Wojcik might step down after the season. Once Wojcik stepped aside, he endorsed Passafaro as his replacement–and Passafaro felt he was the best person for the job.
“I’ve been working for it for a long time,” he said.
Passafaro got into coaching immediately after graduating from Middletown High School North in 2006. He served as an assistant at Middletown North and at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison. He was also a head coach at two girls’ programs in Orlando, Fla., at Cornerstone Charter Academy and at Olympia High School.
The longtime coach had just completed his first season at Olympia in April 2018, but then his wife gave birth to their daughter, and the family moved back to New Jersey to be closer to their extended family. That’s when he got the teaching job and the JV coaching job at Sayreville. With his young family, his extended family nearby, his interesting teaching job and his new boys’ basketball program, Passafaro might be settling down for the long haul.
“I’m very optimistic about what we have coming up,” he said.
Passafaro has two principles that he wants to instill in his program: hold kids accountable and make them focus on defense first.
“The biggest thing today is telling kids they made a commitment and have to be accountable for it,” Passafaro said. “Don’t coddle.”
“All these teams now are trying to be the (Golden State) Warriors of high school,” he added. “They push the ball and there’s no substance. I’m trying to create a system where we screen and run different sets and looks to help us win.”
Passafaro’s rationale is that Sayreville is a public school, not a private school with a loaded roster of elite athletes from all areas of the state and beyond. But while he may not be rolling out a bunch of Division 1 athletes, Passafaro still likes his talent a lot.
Sayreville went 6-18 last winter, but stayed competitive in a lot of games. Passafaro and Wojcik both viewed it as one of those years when bad luck led to close losses.
“I felt we had talent. We just couldn’t put it together,” Passafaro said. “The pieces are in place.”
They include 6-1 creator and returning starter Luca Ventricelli, point guard and Bishop George Ahr High School transfer Danny Golaszewski and 6-5 center and returning varsity player Ryan Ament.
The program also includes players from a JV team that finished above .500 and a freshmen team that reached the Middlesex County title game last year.
Everything is off to decent start, too. Sayreville has won two straight games in the Rahway Summer League, including its only contest with a full varsity roster.
“We’re playing a little better every game,” Passafaro said.