With Guy Bertola, 's new, brash football coach, life is like a Ke$ha song: The party starts when he walks in.
He's full of life and laughter that is contagious to anyone who gets close. We dare anyone to come near him and leave without smiling.
"I am so glad to be here in Parsippany," he said, "in a great town, in a great school and with a team that will defy expectations. We are going to win some games this year."
He's got the spirit, yes, he does. Bertola, 39, an All-State high school linebacker, also has a 16-year history as a high school and college football coach including stints in New Jersey and Florida and at schools as disparate Coconut Creek High School and his own alma mater, Kean University.
And he's now tasked with replacing former coach Mike Adams, who's now leading the football team at Oxford High School in Massachusetts, and reversing the fortunes of the High's varsity football team, which went 0-10 last season, and 7-63 over the last seven years.
"When I heard that, I knew this was the job for me," Bertola said. "This looks like a real challenge.
"And I love a challenge."
Bertola took on his first coaching challenge in 1996 at Lodi High School, from which he'd graduated four years prior.
Coaching football, he said, was something he always wanted to do. He said he knew he was sure of his calling after putting coaching aside for two years to get some use out of his broadcast journalism degree.
"I worked at WFAN, ESPN Sports Ticker and the Bergen Record," he said. "I had some of the best jobs at some of the best media outlets in the world, and I didn't feel fulfilled. Yeah, I went to the World Series and the Super Bowl, but is this my life?
"I just missed coaching."
Bertola said he felt was missing an opportunity to make a difference.
"I was making money, but what impact was I having?"
In 2001, he headed back to the gridiron. He spent three years at Cedar Grove High School.
"I learned about organization, how to run a team," he said, crediting Head Coach Ed Sadlock. "He was my mentor. Taught me everything from budgets to how to coach freshman and seniors differently. I really learned a lot."
In 2004, a family illness forced Bertola to relocate to Florida, where he earned a defensive coordinator's position at Coconut Creek High School near Fort Lauderdale.
"That program was 0-100, 0-10 for 10 straight years," he remembered. "First year we went to the Florida State Semifinals. Second year we went to Florida State Regionals. Both are the equivalent of state titles in New Jersey."
Asked what gives him the ability to turn around a team so drastically, Bertola doesn't hesitate in his reply.
"Cool, magnetic energy," he said. "I'm positive and passionate about what I do. It pours out of my veins. If you've got a heartbeat and you're standing in front of me, you're going to become positive by osmosis. And if there are negative people around, we're going to pound them with the positive."
Bertola said a healthy dose of hard work and an intense focus on mastering the basic fundamentals of football—along with a heaping helping of enthusiasm—will move things in a positive direction for the 2012-13 Red Hawks.
And he's working with an eye to the future.
Having finished a practice with his players and then a coaches' meeting at the Parsippany building, rather than going home to his new bride, Bertola is headed to the building.
"Gotta keep an eye of the ones comin' up," he said with a grin. "Gotta make sure the kids are doin' it right, doin' it the Red Hawk way: positive, enthusiastic, [with] effort, attitude and achievement.
"Gotta be honest with you," Bertola continued, sotto voce. "I just made that up. But this is the truth: This is a great bunch of kids. Mike Adams did a great job with them: They work hard, they try hard, they listen. We just need to work on the mindset, technique and fundamentals, blocking and tackling. We're turning boys into men.
"You'll see. That'll make all the difference."
Red Hawk fans will get their first looks this Friday, when the team takes on Hanover Park in an away game and in the home opener against Madison High on Sept. 14.