“I was blessed with players, and not just the great ones. Great players are going to be great no matter where they go,” O’Leary said yesterday morning. “The little guys made our program great. Those are the guys that came every day and put up with my nonsense and bought in. They made us.”
The 62-year-old O’Leary will continue as athletic director at St. John’s, a post he’s held since 1999. He’ll be helping shape the athletics at the Prep’s middle school, which is set to open in 2015, and the landscape of an AD’s job has certainly changed over the last 15 years. O’Leary and his staff (the dedicated Ann Egderton and Jameson Pelkey) oversee almost 700 events during the school year.
Think about 42 years coaching in some capacity. The midnight film sessions during the week and fall social functions that are all but impossible to attend. As O’Leary said, “That’s a lot of Saturdays.”
“It’s time,” he said, asked what factored into the decision to step down this year. “I’ve probably thought about it 30 years. Every year, unless you win a state championship or win on Thanksgiving, you come in the next Monday worrying about how to get better. It takes a toll.”
Just about anyone who played for O’Leary will tell you he’s an incredible motivator. Chris Zardas, one of the school’s all-time greats at running back, once told me his high school teams believed they could beat the Patriots after an O’Leary speech.
Legend has it that he once got his hands on an opposing team’s helmet and smashed it to bits with a hammer before a game.
“The best motivator I’ve ever been around,” said St. Pierre, who played for PIttsburgh Steelers legend Bill Cowher, among others, in an incredible quarterbacking career.