John Fiore — the Montclair High School football head coach who took a leave of absence over the past season — won't be returning to MHS as originally planned.

Instead, Fiore, one of the top football coaches in the state over the last decade, has accepted a job coaching for Elizabeth. The Board of Education in the Union County community formally approved his hire that evening.

"My intent all along was to come back to Montclair," Fiore told Montclair Local Friday. "I even had put in my letter (to be reinstated) on Feb. 7, but this opportunity came along."

He said it had been a difficult decision, one he mulled over for several days with his family. But he said there were several reasons in play, including an easier commute from his home in Cranford to Elizabeth as opposed to Montclair.

"This was 100%  best for me and my family," said Fiore. "You are always looking for a new challenge and to move on."

In a separate conversation with NJ.com, Fiore also cited administration changes since his arrival at MHS in 2010.

“We have some great people in place, but it’s not the same place as when I was hired,” Fiore told that publication. “When I was hired, there were real football guys in the administration who got what a head coach goes through.”

Acting head coach Pete Ramiccio filled in for Fiore this past season as Montclair went 5-5.

Fiore leaves with an impressive resume on the gridiron for the Mounties. Under Fiore's leadership, the Mounties had a 93-31 record. They appeared in seven NJSIAA sectional championships, winning in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017, while also having unbeaten seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2017.

Fiore told Montclair Local he had ruled out the option of teaching in Elizabeth, but still coaching in Montclair: "It was possible, but that's not how I do things. The only way to be successful is to be a part of their (players) lives."

Ramiccio took over after Fiore announced his leave of absence in July of last year. Fiore has continued as a physical education teacher in the 2021-22 school year.

“My kids need me at home right now,” Fiore said in a press release announcing his leave in July. “Something happened that I can’t share, that you wouldn’t want to happen to anyone’s family. It’s really important for me to be home and take care of my family and kids at this point.”

In a letter to the Montclair community Friday, Fiore said it had been an honor coaching Montclair "carrying the torch for an unmatched winning tradition established eight decades ago by Clary Anderson and Butch Fortunato."

"The standard is high in Montclair, and you – the alumni, parents, coaches, players and fans – made me aware of that every single day," he continued. "I can proudly say that we more than met that standard both on and off the field, and together we built a program that reflected the greatness of the town of Montclair and Montclair High School.."

Montclair Local is reaching out to Ramiccio and the Montclair district administration Friday, seeking more information about what's next for MHS's program. See MontclairLocal.news for updates.

— Includes reporting by Edward Kensik, and prior reporting by Andrew Garda