Orbe is the right guy for the right job at the right time
New London — You've heard the term "home run hire" before? It just happened in the 06320. Phil Orbe to New London. It's like the ball Mickey Mantle once hit 565 feet out of Griffith Stadium.
Athletics at New London High just came back without even officially coming back yet. Orbe is the right guy for the right job at the right time. He brings success and experience from Montville, all while having grown up in the city at 104 Boulder Dr. The perfect cocktail.
Just ask his peers, especially one guy who is even a New London High graduate.
"Phil is extremely dedicated to our profession of athletic administration," Ledyard High assistant principal/athletic director (and city native) Jim Buonocore said Friday. "It was clear to me that Phil had an immediate and positive impact on Montville athletics, and he has certainly been an integral part of the overall success of the ECC. He pays attention to detail, loves to compete and possesses the leadership skill set necessary to move New London athletics forward. I absolutely love this hire. I look forward to continuing our work together."
Orbe reads the papers. He's intimately involved in the work of the ECC. So he's aware things in New London at the moment aren't exactly, you know, peachy keen. He's been asked frequently in recent days why he'd leave the relative comfort and calm of Montville for mostly cloudy with an excellent chance of a typhoon.
"I've been contemplating lately the difference between being comfortable and content," Orbe said Friday. "I was comfortable in Montville. I don't know about content. At this point, I want to do the most good I can. This is an opportunity for that."
Orbe leaves Montville as the most important figure in athletics maybe ever. He's certainly on the Rushmore thing. The Montville High kid returns and becomes the first coach in the history of the school to win a state title in one of the "big three" sports: football, basketball or baseball. He won three baseball state championships, running a state-level program. He was the face of his place.
Now he makes another return: to where he grew up.
"My dad was never that much into sports. There were a lot of people who stepped up for me in New London," Orbe said. "Mr. Klinefelter ... Mr. Brown ... Mr. Nott ... a lot of names come to mind. They took really good care of this kid who didn't have much direction. I think about that a lot."
Orbe left the city at 14. He played Little League and pee wee basketball here. He also knew what "being a Whaler" meant in Montville, even when many of his new friends didn't.
"I became envious in a way," Orbe said. "You wanted to be like them and you always tried to beat them because they had that mystique. I always followed the success of guys I knew growing up like Troy McKelvin, Brian Mercado, Bobby Nenna and Leo Clinton."
Nobody knows the levels of dysfunction that will greet Orbe at 490 Jefferson Ave. He's not going to fix this by snapping his fingers. But everyone in that athletic department — and school in general — should understand the following:
Phil Orbe wins wherever he goes. He does not tolerate fools. He will hold you accountable. He is fair. He is firm. This job means a lot to him. So does the city. Anyone who may be on cruise control at the moment might want to rethink that — things like effort level and attention to detail — in the coming weeks.
Orbe begins his transition from Montville to New London next week. The new sheriff will be here soon enough.
"I'm going to miss Montville," he said. "The adult relationships. I have nieces there now and kids of close friends. I'm really going to miss that."
And they should really miss him, too.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro