In an era when coaches come and go based on championships won, players sent to colleges or the number of complaints made by parents, Kevin Rooney and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame had a marriage made in heaven.
Rooney arrived 40 years ago from Northern California, unknown in the San Fernando Valley. He left Monday after announcing his retirement as Notre Dame football coach as one of the most respected, successful high school coaches in California history.
It was more than the 316 wins, four Southern Section championships and 16 league titles that elevated Rooney’s tenure. It was more than the type of players he helped produce, from Justin Fargas to Travis Johnson, from Dayne Crist to Giancarlo Stanton. It was his class, integrity and the life lessons he passed on that made the greatest impact at Notre Dame and was the reason the school stayed with him no matter whether there was a great season or losing season.
“It’s time to do something else and let somebody do this great job,” Rooney said. “It’s just been a great experience. It’s definitely a very challenging job and you need people around you who are loyal, positive and supportive. I had that.”
Notre Dame has not announced a replacement, and the big question is whether defensive coordinator Joe McNab will be interested in the position. He has been Rooney’s top assistant for 39 years and also Notre Dame’s successful track coach. He was the interim coach for several games in 2018 when Rooney had to step away after the death of his wife.
Jeff Kraemer, who served for more than 30 years as an assistant to Rooney, said, “Kevin Rooney is a one in 1 million person and coach. He taught me life lessons while being a championship coach. There is no one with more class than Kevin.”