After he was named Portsmouth High School's varsity football coach Monday, Russ Russo quickly identified his No. 1 priority.
"I want to make sure all the coaches from last year come back," Russo said. "The core staff of guys - I need them."
Three Portsmouth assistant coaches - Russo, Brian Pafford and Tim Hopley - were among the four candidates who were interviewed for the job, which opened up when Bill Murphy resigned last month. Murphy is expected to remain on staff in a reduced role, and Russo stressed that he wants Pafford and Hopley to return as well.
"Our coaching staff and the responsibilities of our coaching staff - there's no real need to change things," Russo said. "We're all competitive guys. I'd like everybody to stay on board."
Russo, 44, has been with the Portsmouth program for 16 years. He played football at Chelmsford (Mass.) High School, and then for Northeastern. He's a Portsmouth resident and works as a patrol lieutenant with the Portsmouth Police Department.
Ron Ross, who played high school football at Portsmouth, was also interviewed for the position. Ross was formerly the head football coach at Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine.
"It was an extremely tough choice," Portsmouth athletic director Rus Wilson said. "We interviewed four people and we would have been happy with any one of them as a head coach. Russ is involved with youth football in the city and we were real impressed with him in the interview."
Portsmouth has won the last two Division III state championships, and has reached the Division III championship game in six of the last seven years.
"We've always worked together as a staff and pooled our thoughts," Russo said. "Hopefully the only thing that will change is our personnel."