by Tom Pedulla –
Michael Gulino, who became the interim athletic director at Sleepy Hollow High School on July 1, is thinking big while admitting he has relatively little time to revive some of the school’s sagging sports programs.
Gulino spoke of his desire to have “a great athletic program across the board for all kids in all sports.” The circumstances surrounding his appointment, though, will make it difficult for that to become a reality any time soon.
“That’s my goal,” he said. “Can I do it in one year? I don’t know if I can do it in one year, but we’re definitely going to work at putting the pieces in place to have a great system moving forward and start to work at building it to where it should be, at the top of Section 1 athletics.”
Gulino, 64, emphasized that long-term answers will have to come from someone else. He retired in June 2015 and noted that his appointment is for one year. He succeeds Denise Kiernan, who resigned after an undistinguished two-year stint that left certain programs, such as football, with a long climb back merely to regain respectability. Kiernan resigned amid widespread dissatisfaction with her performance and that of numerous teams.
Christopher Borsari, superintendent of schools, acknowledged the need to do better when he said in a press release announcing the hiring of Gulino that the interim athletic director “will be tasked with reviewing our athletic program through an athletic study process focused upon improving the athletic experience of students.”
Gulino spent most of his career in the Byram Hills Central School District in Armonk. He was a middle school health teacher there for 20 years and the athletic director at the high school for another 14 years. He graduated from Manhattan College and holds Master’s degrees from Columbia University Teachers College and Lehman College.
He has grown accustomed to serving in a stop-gap capacity since his retirement. He was the acting principal at Sleepy Hollow to cover a short leave of absence in 2017. He was the interim Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics for the South Orangetown Central School District before his latest appointment.
Gulino undoubtedly heard an earful as he sought feedback in his first few weeks on the job. “I’m doing a lot of listening to coaches, teachers, administrators, parents and athletes,” he said.
He also focused on hiring assistant coaches in various sports, including varsity and junior varsity football, and said he was able to use contacts he built through the years to expand the pool of candidates.
When asked about the state of Sleepy Hollow athletics, he responded, “I haven’t really been there that long to draw any conclusions. Whatever those challenges are, we’re going to work at it, we’re going to change it, we’re going to make it better. We’re going to make Sleepy Hollow a highly competitive athletic program, not only competitive in terms of wins and losses but to create a sports culture.
“We want our kids to be student-athletes. We want them to do well in the classroom as well. We want our athletic programs involved in community service programs,” he continued. “We want them to be positive role models for youth programs. When you take care of those little things, winning just kind of takes care of itself.”
Gulino said he believes his successor should be someone with previous experience as a Section 1 Athletic Director with contacts to recruit top coaches from the area. He said he will not be the “point person” for that search and did not know when it would begin.