SRA’s Dunbar takes over at Coventry
Former Saints QB trying to turn around Oakers
PAWTUCKET – When Mike Sassi, St. Raphael Academy’s veteran football coach, discovered a former favorite student-athlete had landed the gig as new varsity head coach at Coventry High School, he naturally was elated. His name is Stanley Dunbar, and he spent four years working his tail off for Sassi, his staff and the team. It more than paid off, as Dunbar played a pivotal role in the Saints’ capture of the 2007 Division I Super Bowl crown – an 8-6 triumph over rival Hendricken – not to mention an unbeaten campaign. “I found out a couple of days ago, and nat- urally I was happy for him,” Sassi stated. “I’m sure he’ll turn that program around, give it a real infusion of youth, energy and knowledge. I know the kids are going to listen to him because he did it on the field – for years. He’s a winner and a leader, and Coventry is lucky to have someone of his caliber.” To illustrate Dunbar’s character, Sassi brought up a particular moment he never forgot – and never will. “Stanley actually came to me during the spring before his junior year, and told me that he wanted to play quarterback; he knew we didn’t have one,” Sassi explained. “I was impressed. I knew he was an extreme talent, so I designed our whole offense around him. There wasn’t much ‘Wildcat’ back then, but I used him like a tailback in the ‘I (formation),’ and he ended up running for over 1,400 yards that season.
“The thing is, he could still throw the deep ball; he was always finding (receiver) Jordan Monk for touchdowns,” he added. “He also played defense for us, and was the best corner I ever had. His work ethic was above and beyond. If he’s still got it, and I KNOW he does as a player and coach, he’ll be successful.” Dunbar played at Dean College for two years, then moved on to represent the University of Rhode Island for the next two; he excelled, especially as a defensive back, at both institutions. According to Sassi, Dunbar returned to coach at Dean as an assistant, then held the same position at American International College in Springfield. It was there he recruited fellow SRA alumnus Xavier Torres just two years ago. “I don’t think we had any certain (characteristics) we were looking for in a football coach,” stated Coventry High Athletic Director Chuck Jones. “We were just seeing who was out there. We had 17 applicants, and we had our screening committee give us no less than six and no more than eight to interview. “We had four candidates who we really liked, and all three were excellent candidates who brought different (qualities) to the table,” he continued. “Stanley was the one. He came across as sincere, mature and enthusiastic. He was someone that the parents on the committee would want their kids to play for, even though their kids didn’t play football. “It was a unanimous decision; everyone was impressed with Stanley.” According to Jones, the fact he was an All-State selection at quarterback, a Gatorade/Rhode Island Football Player of the Year and a Super Bowl champion, that he knew all about the game from the inside, was a plus. Then again, so was this: “The impression I got from him during the interview process was that his playing career was over, and (he felt) it was time for him to teach the game,” Jones said. “That was one of the big things we also found – that he would communicate with the kids really well. “I got phone calls from several Division I (and Division II) high school coaches … and also made several phone calls, including one to URI AD (Thorr) Bjorn, and everybody spoke highly of (Dunbar). I think his attention was to assist at Portsmouth again this year. Several of the D-I coaches didn’t realize he was looking for a position, and their comment to me was, ‘If you don’t hire him, we will!’ “Every coach, no matter what level it was, thought he’d be a great leader and a great coach,” he added. “I asked Bjorn (for) one word to describe Stanley, and he said, ‘Passionate.’ That’s what we all felt from him when we talked to him. “We need to get our kids enthusiastic about (the entire) athletic program. I think that your athletic programs are built off of your football program – that’s what drives your community, and your school community. “The goal is for every light in town to be out on Friday night, except for the football lights.” At the home of the Knotty Oakers, Jones has no doubt Dunbar can fill that need.