By Jean DePlacido
---- — St. John’s Prep athletic director and former football coach Jim O’Leary is one of seven being inducted into the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame at Lantana’s on April 27.
O’Leary coached the Eagles football team for 30 years before stepping down two months ago to concentrate on his expanded athletic director’s duties as St. John’s adds a middle school.
“It’s a nice honor,” said O’Leary. “I’ve been involved with the Coaches Association ever since I became a head coach. I’m getting the award, but it really should go to all my coaches and the kids that have gone through our program. It has always been a team effort, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Mike Graceffa of Lincoln-Sudbury, Leo Sybertz of West Roxbury High, Barry Gildea and John Driscoll of Northeast Metro Tech, John DiBiaso of Everett High, and Dan McLaughlin of Springfield Central will also be inducted.
“I guess it’s appropriate that ‘Dib’ and I are going in at the same time because we’ve had some great games over the years,” said O’Leary. “He has a few more wins than I do, and by the time he retires will most likely set the record for Massachusetts. John Driscoll’s son played for me so that’s another nice connection.”
O’Leary coached the Eagles for 30 years starting in 1984 when he took over for Fred Glatz. The North Reading High, Worcester Academy, and University of New Hampshire graduate started his career as an assistant at UNH for four years before coming to St. John’s, where he helped Glatz for eight seasons.
O’Leary ended his career with an impressive 207-110-2 record with nine Catholic Conference championships and six Super Bowl appearances. The Eagles won the Division 1 Super Bowl in 1997 when they were undefeated and again in 2012 with the only loss all season coming at the hands of Everett.
Under O’Leary, the Eagles always played one of the toughest schedules in the state, and never ducked any team that wanted to take them on. He coached the Shriners Game three years and served as a coach in the Agganis Classic three times. He also helped countless players with the dream of playing college football.
Former NFL players Rob Konrad, Brian St. Pierre (the new Prep football coach), Wayne Lucier, and Jonathan Goff all got their start playing for coach O’Leary. Matt Antonelli, Jeff Mackor, Brian Lentz, and Ryan Leahy went on to pro baseball careers while John McCarthy is an NHL player. New Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien played football under O’Leary.
“A lot of people I looked up to over the years are in the Hall of Fame. Jimmy O’Connor, Ken Perrone, and Fred Glatz are all there so it’s very nice to be part of that group,” he said.
O’Leary was named Coach of the Year in 2009 by the Association of New England Football Officials, a very prestigious honor given annually to a coach displaying the highest ethical standards and promoting those qualities in his players.
Hall of Fame chairman Sandy Ruggles officially made the announcement this week, but O’Leary heard about it earlier from his close friend Charlie Stevenson, the Xaverian AD and football coach.
“Charlie’s our league representative in the association, and he called to tell me,” said O’Leary. “I just wish there was some way all my assistant coaches could share it with me. It will be a nice night, and I only have to make a five minute speech.”