Portland High Schools’ Coach Gs do most of their work behind the scenes, but the father-son duo is an invaluable asset to two Bulldog athletic programs.
Father-son duo Joseph Giordano Jr. and Joseph Giordano III have put in nearly 50 combined years of coaching at Portland, none as varsity head coaches.
Joseph Jr. is entering his 30th season as an assistant coach for boys basketball, while Joseph III is in his 19th season with the boys soccer program, the last 14 leading the junior varsity. They’re appreciative of everything the school has given them – and they’ve given so much, too.
“My whole family, on his side, since they’ve been in this country have gone to Portland High School,” Joseph III said, pointing to his father. “At Portland, there’s just something about it. You can’t put your finger on what it is.”
“Bulldog Nation is Bulldog Nation,” Joseph Jr. added. “It’s a family, and it’s always been that way.”
Four generations of Giordanos have attended Portland. The late Joseph Giordano Sr. and Clara Giordano graduated in the 1940s; Joseph Jr. and his two siblings, Michael and Rose, graduated in 1975, 1978, and 1981, respectively; Joseph III in 1999, and his sister, Nicole, the year before. Several extended family members graduated from Portland, too.
Now attending Portland are Joseph III’s son Angelo, and nephew Noah; both play on the boys soccer first team. Joseph III played football, basketball, and baseball for Portland, and his father played soccer, basketball, and rugby for a nascent area program.
While sub-varsity head coaches and assistants rarely receive much attention, their efforts don’t go unnoticed by those in and around the athletic program.
“Both Coach Giordanos bring the same passion for Portland High athletics,” Athletic Director Lance Johnson said. “They are totally unselfish and are willing to do every task behind the scenes, no matter how small, in order to make sure our student-athletes are successful on the playing fields and in life.”
Bulldog student-athletes who play both basketball and soccer, like Emmanuel Yugu, a 2018 graduate, get the full Giordano coaching experience. Yugu said the Giordanos – both called “Coach G” – have “similar coaching styles,” although the younger Giordano is a little more expressive and louder during games and practices.
“Not being a varsity head coach, you often take a back seat and that could be hard, but I think they play their role to the best they can play it,” Yugu said. “They know a lot about what they’re doing … and I don’t know if PHS wins a lot of games and titles without them.”
During a recent Saturday morning conversation at Fitzpatrick Stadium, both Giordanos acknowledged they’ve had aspirations to serve as a varsity head coach but haven’t for differing reasons.
Joseph Jr., 66, works as a freelance union stagehand. While most of the shows he works on are in southern Maine, he has traveled the world for work with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Philip Glass’ opera “Einstein on the Beach.” Joseph Jr. originally took the job only because an assistant coaching gig with the Deering High School girls program didn’t work out; three decades later he remains the right-hand man and close confidant for Portland boys basketball head coach and classmate Joe Russo.
“The reason I could never do a varsity head coaching position is I could never commit to the kids full-time,” said Joseph Jr., whose brother, Michael, coaches girls basketball at Scarborough High School. “And if I couldn’t do that, it’s not fair to take a job that way.”
Joseph Jr. makes every effort to schedule around the basketball season and only missed one game. He watched the 2014 state championship victory from Berlin.
“I was up at 4 a.m. watching it online,” he said.
“And we got you on the phone afterward to speak to the team,” Joseph III added.
Joseph III seemed destined for coaching from a young age. He admits he wasn’t a standout athlete, but his friends quickly noticed his coaching potential from the end of the bench.
“I’d be sitting on the bench next to my father, shouting out the same things as him at the same time,” he said.
Soon after graduating college, he joined the Portland boys soccer program. Working under boys soccer head coach Rocco Frenzilli, who started the program 50 years ago, Joseph III considered opportunities to advance his coaching career by taking a role outside the school. But his dedication to the program and school has outweighed any external opportunities – although, at 41, there’s still plenty of time to secure a head coaching gig.
He is in his sixth year as an educational technician at Portland and has 18 years of experience in Portland Public Schools classrooms.
“I have aspirations to be a head coach, but I don’t really want to go anywhere else,” Joseph III said. “There’ve been a few positions that have opened up, and I’d like to do it at that level, but I don’t want to leave our kids, and I love Portland High School.”
They’ve coached other sports, too: Joseph Jr. has served as an assistant in the past for Portland baseball and softball, and Joseph III was a baseball assistant for a time, too, and up until last year coached eighth-grade boys basketball at King Middle School. The former has eight state championships to his resume, one more than famed quarterback Tom Brady, Joseph Jr. noted.
They love the Bulldogs, even if it means sacrificing the spotlight.
“There’s just a mystique about Portland,” Joseph III said.
Greg Levinsky is a Portland native and follower of local sports. He is an alumnus of Deering High School and Boston University whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Detroit Free Press, and several Maine newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected].