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Updating an old Brackett

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published August 28. 2012 4:00AM

Ledyard

All he's ever done is command the respect of his peers, author a high school football playoff victory at Ansonia and negotiate all the buzzards and vultures in New London, while providing a sense of serenity, not to mention dignity, to the football program during a time of turmoil.

And yet it's been six years since Bob Brackett has coached football, not counting a few bellows from the bleachers watching his nephews play in college. But Brackett is back again, where he belongs, around kids. And we learn anew how times and moments in our lives eventually come around again, how life imparts answers at its own pace.

Brackett is coaching at Ledyard, joining Jim Buonocore's staff in the offseason. He's coaching defensive backs, wide receivers and some special teams. Brackett said things "quieted" a little in his life, now with only nephew Sean playing college ball at Columbia, allowing time to coach again.

"Bob reached out late in the spring and asked if we had any openings. To me, it was a no brainer. I had to find a way to get him here," Buonocore said after Monday's practice. "Here's a guy who has always been successful, put in a lot of time.

"I had watched him from afar. He always has a good relationship with the kids. I always admired the way he ran his program," Buonocore said. "He's fit right in here."

Brackett spent Monday coaching his new kids only a few hundred feet from "the garage," a landmark of sorts around the Ledyard program. It's not merely the equipment storage facility, but the makeshift locker room for opposing teams.

And it was one day in 2000 when the garage was the backdrop for everything you ever need to know about Brackett and his character. Griswold had just beaten Ledyard in Ledyard - huge upset - and some of his players tried to deface parts of the garage after the game.

Picture it: Brackett, mere minutes removed from one of his biggest victories, should have been giddy. Instead, he saw the conduct of his players and authored a coaching explosion that would have had Bobby Knight nodding in approval. He dressed down the players in question and made them apologize to then-coach Bill Mignault immediately.

And to think this is the guy they railroaded at Griswold a few years later.

And to think this is the guy they called "coach Billy Bob," in New London, as if Brackett's time in Griswold made him some bumpkin, as if New London is this big, bad city.

"I probably never pictured myself wearing anything but green and white," Brackett said Monday, alluding to the Griswold school colors. "But that's the way it goes. You've got to evolve."

Brackett coached Griswold for 12 seasons. He won three divisional championships there. And in 2000, the Wolverines won a playoff game at Ansonia, one of the great upsets in state history.

"Leaving Griswold created all kinds of pain," Brackett said. "It was a very personal thing. I was out of coaching. I had my two nephews getting ready to play there. They were looking forward to that. So was I. I don't know if I'll ever get over that."

Through it all, Bob Brackett never took himself too seriously. He taught his kids all the right things. He loved beating Putnam. He was fond of saying that even winning ugly "beats a sharp pencil in the eye." A good guy. Now he's back.

"Very happy to be here," he said. "I'll get a nickel's worth (of coaching) in every once in a while. These guys coach here 24/7. There's a lot of coaching going on out here."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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