BLOOMFIELD, NJ--For a half century, Ken Trimmer had been coaching and developing football in Essex County. He did so with a straight-forward, old-school approach and throws compliments around with the ease of a proverbial manhole cover.
But when Trimmer was asked about Bloomfield High’s football coach, Mike Carter, there’s no question where Trimmer stands.
“You will not meet a better man, both as a friend and a coach,” said Trimmer. “There is no question about it. This is someone who does it right, every day. A complete gentleman and a hard-working coach. I’ve known him for almost 30 years and have felt this way from the first time I met him.”
Trimmer’s Caldwell High teams would often scrimmage Carter’s Bengals in August. And, since the inception of the Robeson Football Classic, in 1994, Carter has been by Trimmer’s side in making the All-Star game the success it is today.
“Mike is not only an excellent coach, but he’s always giving back to his family, his coaching family and his players, past and present,” said Trimmer.
Family. It continues to resonate with Mike Carter, in so many ways.
After serving as an assistant coach to Chet Parlavecchio, at Bloomfield High, for three years, Carter took over as head coach at his alma mater, in 1991. Carter, one of six children born to Pat and Robert Carter, had played for the Bengals from 1975-1978.
Carter has been a head coach through five U.S. presidential administrations. When he was named head coach, Michael Jordan had just won the first of six eventual NBA championships, the New York Giants had won Super Bowl XXV against the Buffalo Bills, ‘Roseanne‘ and ‘Murphy Brown‘ were big-time television shows and ‘Goodfellas‘ was a top movie.
Like anyone who has been at the helm of a high school football program for nearly three decades, Carter has had a number of assistant coaches.
This year is especially noteworthy, as Mike’s two eldest sons, Mike Jr. and Dan, are part of a talented staff, which also includes Hank Gibson, Mike Buckley, Ed Capozzi, Zach Dearwater, Kelechi Ibeh, Jason Taggert, George Hill and Jason Tiseo.
Mike Sr., and his wife, the late Gerise Carter, have five children. Mike Jr is the eldest, followed by Kelly, Dan, Brian and Megan.
Mike’s influence on his children speaks volumes, but to anyone who knows Carter, it’s no surprise.
“Coaching with my father has always been a goal of mine growing up,” said Mike Carter Jr., who was a tremendous athlete at Bloomfield High, and later a star baseball player at Rutgers University. “I’ve always looked up to him, and the way he carries himself. He’s never shied away from a challenge and is the first one there when someone is in need of help. He loves what he does, and brings a never-ending energy approach to life every single day.”
That never-ending energy was also observed by a long-time friend and coaching colleague. Bill Johnson, who first met Carter when the former was an assistant coach at Montclair State in the early 1990’s, has become close to Mike.
Bill Johnson also got to know Carter through Jermain Johnson, who played at Bloomfield High from 1987-1990, while Carter was Parlavecchio’s assistant and later, at Montclair State, where Johnson was on the staff. Bill Johnson also served as an assistant at Bloomfield, on Carter’s staff, from 2004-2008.
“I had been the head coach at Passaic Valley, prior to coming to Bloomfield,” said Johnson. “Mike and I had become friends and when I left PV, there was an opening for me at Bloomfield. Well, my first year there, I had seen the way Mike works and cares for his players.
“I thought I was good to my kids when I was a head coach. But when I got to Bloomfield and saw all the things Mike did to help his players, on and off the field, I was embarrassed. I was like ‘wow, this man is really something.'”
Johnson was also impressed by Carter’s work ethic.
“Mike has an insatiable quest for learning football,” said Johnson. “There would be times he’d call and say ‘Moose (a favorite nickname among Carter’s coaching pals), there’s a (football) clinic in Syracuse, let’s take a ride,'” recalled Johnson, with a laugh. “There’s no place he wouldn’t go, to get better at what he does.”
Dan Carter, Mike’s middle son, is a student at William Paterson University. Like his older brother, Dan is a tremendous collegiate baseball player, and like Mike Jr., also played football for his dad at BHS.
“Living in a football house, I have gotten to experience many different phases of football, from being the ball boy, to a player, to now a coach,” said Dan. “And one thing has remained the same, my father, Coach Carter, has been there every step of the way.
“Given the opportunity to coach alongside my father, my brother Mike, and my Cousin Jason (Tiseo), has been some of the most memorable and enjoying moments of my life.”
Competing against Carter’s football teams has always been a challenge. Just ask Nutley High’s Steve DiGregorio. The two men share a close friendship, and are head coaches at their high school alma maters.
“If you think about it, for a man to coach at the school he played for and graduated, for 29 years, that’s really something,” said DiGregorio. “You don’t see that too much anymore.
“Mike Carter is everything a football coach is supposed to be. He’s a class act. We actually graduated high school in the same year, but we didn’t know each other when we were kids, even though we played locally. Back then, Bloomfield and Nutley didn’t play during the regular season, but we always scrimmaged Bloomfield.
“I remember Mike’s older brother (Gibby), but it wasn’t until I was an assistant coach at Princeton (University) that I got to know Mike. We were recruiting one of Mike’s players at Bloomfield High, Ernie Stefanelli, and developed a friendship.”
DiGregorio and Carter would coach against each other in the NNJIL days, when DiGregorio got the head coaching job at Paramus Catholic, and the rivalry continued when Steve was named head coach at Nutley, in 2004.
“I think it’s great that Mike gets the chance to coach with two of his sons,” said DiGregorio. “That’s really something. Mike’s children and my kids are about the same age. I had the chance to coach my sons, when they played high school football, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I know Mike enjoyed coaching Mike Jr. and Dan, and now, they’re on his staff. That’s special, and it couldn’t happen to a better family.”
Family. It certainly holds a special place for Mike Carter, Sr. He comes from a large family, where his mom, Pat, and dad, the late Robert Carter, raised six children. Mike’s siblings are Gibby, Jerry, Kathy, Margie and the late Patti.
Carter and Chet Parlavecchio haven’t coached together for nearly 30 years, but the friendship remains intact. At a function to honor the 1989 Bloomfield Bengals a few years back, Parlavecchio was quick to acknowledge Carter’s accomplishments as a head coach.
Parlavecchio had guided a once-winless Bengals program (the program hadn’t won a game from 1983-1987) to the NJSIAA playoffs just two years after an 0-9 season, in Parlavecchio’s first year as head coach, in 1987.
“There is no better person, and no better friend than Mike Carter,” said Parlavecchio of his one-time assistant, at the beginning of his speech, as the audience stood and applauded.
Phil Delgado is today a successful softball coach and mentor. He’s the head coach at Bloomfield College. A generation ago, Delgado played football for Carter.
“That man saved my life,” said Delgado of Carter. “I named my son after him. I don’t know where’d I’d be without Mike Carter.”
Entering the 2019 season, Carter has coached 286 high school games, won 137 and helped countless players and students accomplish their goals, in college and in life.
The biggest accolades still come from his children.
“I learn something new every day, being around my father,” said Dan Carter. “My father still guides us all through life by setting a great example on how to be a leader, father, and great coach.”
Mike Carter’s focus is always on the future, with love in his heart for his children.
“When I was younger I would talk to him about future career paths I wanted to take,” said Mike Jr. “He explained, ‘do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ It’s that kind of optimism and perspective on life that gives him the energy to make himself and everyone around him better every day.
“He’s an exemplary role model, great coach, and an amazing father.”