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The Cipp family tree has some strong branches


November 15, 2014 by BOB HERZOG /

Jeff Cipp, left, Joe Cipp Sr., center, and Joe Cipp Jr., right, pose in the family trophy room on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. Photo Credit: Richard T. Slattery


   The coaching seeds were planted in the den at the Cipp home on Beaver Dam Road, adjacent to Bellport High School. That's where Joe Cipp's two sons not only watched cartoons on TV as kids but viewed the flickering images of old film every Sunday and learned that part of their father's success as a high school football coach was built on reviewing game films. Over and over again.

"I remember when he would watch film with his coaches in the den. We'd just sit on the floor and hear everybody talking football. Not that we knew what was going on, but being exposed to it and growing up in that kind of environment, the idea of coaching wasn't scary. It was just what you do," said Joe III, 45.

He's the older of the two football-coaching Cipp brothers. Each earned a No. 1 seed for this year's playoffs and was voted Coach of the Year in his division, Joe III for Division II Bellport and Jeff, 41, for Division I Longwood.

"I remember the coaches' meeting at the house on Sundays. I don't really remember the film, but I do remember the donuts," Jeff Cipp said with a laugh.

Both brothers have memories of romping around on the equipment at the Bellport field. "We would wrestle on the practice dummies when we were little. We'd build forts and just dive into them," Joe Cipp III said.

Sometimes they'd dive into each other. "There were a few injuries," Jeff said. "We'd say, 'Uh-oh, we can't tell Daddy we got hurt.' "

These days, they tell Daddy everything, sometimes right on the spot. Joe Cipp has watched nearly every Bellport and Longwood game this season.

"He's always on the sidelines and it's a welcome thing. He's going to see things I may not see and he'll always have input if he wants it," Joe III said. "When they see him come onto the field, he commands respect. They still stand for him when he comes into our meetings or film sessions."

Longwood's players don't have the same relationship with Joe Cipp, the winningest coach in Suffolk public school history with 211 victories, but they see him every weekend. "When the game is going on, we really don't have any interaction, but at the end of each game, he always says, 'Good job.' That's it," Jeff said.

When Joe III and Jeff played for their father, neither thought they'd become branches of a Cipp family coaching tree. "In high school, I just wanted to play. In college, I just wanted to play," said Joe III, who played at Ithaca College. "When college was over, there definitely was a void, and coaching helped fill that void."

Jeff was similarly driven. "When I was young, I didn't really think about being a coach. It was all about wanting to be a football player," said Jeff, who played at the University of Kentucky and University of Maine. "Since I was going to be a phys ed teacher, coaching kind of goes along with that.''

Joe Cipp, 66, is justifiably proud of what his sons have accomplished this season, the first in which both were head coaches at the same time. They were assistants on his staff from 2004-06 and 2009-10. Bellport went 41-12 in those seasons, with three county and two Long Island titles. Joe III was the offensive coordinator and Jeff was the defensive coordinator.

"There's a sense of pride because they're doing something that I did and I can relate to it," the elder Cipp said. "And they went into education, like I did. Coaching is just a branch of education. The football field is their classroom. The plays and getting kids to learn is their blackboard."

Both sons work in the Longwood school district. Joe III is a special education teacher and Jeff is a physical education instructor.

With their coaching success comes built-in stress, especially with both teams in the playoffs as No. 1 seeds. Joe Cipp understands. "I know how uptight they are. How could you not be?" Cipp said. "You're into the sprint of things now, and a fumble here, a pick there, a few bad calls or not playing your 'A' game translates into a loss."

And even though Joe Cipp is retired, he is not immune to the stress. "People say to me, 'You've got two sons so you've got two chances to win every week,' " Cipp said. "I think of it as having two chances to lose. It's hard on me."

Cipp had a rough weekend. Top-seeded Longwood lost to Patchogue-Medford, 38-22, in a Suffolk I semifinal on Friday night for its first loss of the season. Top-seeded Bellport lost to East Islip, 34-21, in a Suffolk II semifinal on Saturday.

But it's not so hard that he hasn't been able to enjoy sharing the journey with both boys. "How many people have two sons that are head football coaches?" Joe Cipp said. "It doesn't happen too often. I guess I didn't scare them away from the profession."


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