After 22 seasons, “Coach Tony” is hanging up his whistle. So, how do you replace a legend? Putting a slice of his legacy to work seems like a pretty good plan. The lucky candidate with colossal shoes to fill is St. John’s alumnus, assistant coach and one of Coach Tony's most successful swimmers, Jeff Fiore.
“I’m so proud to have Jeff take over the swimming, diving and water polo programs at the Prep,” said Padvaiskas. “He is a kind and meticulous coach who will create an incredible team atmosphere in which the boys can flourish. The program has been so lucky to have alumni that want to give back and support it, and Jeff is a shining example among them.”
Fiore has seen plenty of Padvaiskas’s success first hand, first as a four-year standout for the Eagles, then as his assistant coach this past season in both water polo and swimming. For the record, Padvaiskas led St. John’s to 14 Division 1 state titles, 12 North Sectional crowns, and 17 Catholic Conference championships en route to compiling a 110-8 dual meet record.
He was inducted into the Eastern Massachusetts Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame this spring, one of just 73 inductees since the EMISCA began bestowing the honor in 1981.
While imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, Fiore knows he can’t try to be Tony 2.0. The bar is already high enough.
“I’m very excited and fortunate to end up in a head coaching role,” said Fiore, who swam competitively at the University of Tampa. “Tony and the St. John’s swimming program had a gigantic impact on my youth and young adulthood. They paved the way for my college career, shaped the type of coach I am, and had a huge, positive influence in my life. I feel very fortunate to have had such a great experience competing in these two sports at the Prep and I have a strong personal connection to them. I’m confident I can keep the tradition going.”
YEARS IN THE MAKING
Fiore joined Padvaiskas’s club team when he was 11 years old, then spent four years under his tutelage at St. John’s. Padvaiskas also followed Fiore’s collegiate career closely.
“I have such confidence in the direction of the program, because I’ve witnessed the development of Coach Fiore for over 15 years as a person,” said Padvaiskas. “He will carry on the ideals of the Prep mission through the aquatics programs.”
St. John’s athletic director Jameson Pelkey seconds that emotion.
“I'm excited to have Jeff take over as the head of two programs, our water polo and swimming and diving teams,” said Pelkey. “As an alumnus, Jeff has a special passion for the Prep and for doing whatever is in the best interest of our student-athletes and the school. He’s definitely got big shoes to fill, stepping into these head coaching positions following Tony’s retirement, but I have no doubt Jeff will make the entire Prep community extremely proud.”
For the time being, Fiore can take comfort in the fact that his longtime mentor is just a phone call away.
“Tony has turned the aquatics program into something really incredible, and while it is a tall order to keep the legacy going, he’s been incredibly supportive this past year and he’s given me a road map to success,” says Fiore, who primarily swam the 100- and 200-yard freestyle races at the Prep in addition to starting on the water polo team. “I expect we will be in close contact in the season to come.”
If Fiore’s core mission is any indication, the St. John’s aquatics program is in good hands. “At the end of the day it's not about the swimming, diving or water polo, it's about the positive impact I can make on student-athletes’ Prep experience.”