Jack Roney didn’t become the offensive coordinator at Bishop McNamara until 2004, but his time on Brookmont Blvd began long before that. Save for a two-year stint in Indianapolis and 11 years working for Salkeld’s Sports, Roney has dedicated the better portion of the past 39 years to McNamara.
Currently a guidance counselor on the academic side, Roney will continue his educational role at the school, but the longtime coach has spent his last Friday night on the Rich Zinanni Stadium sidelines.
“It was a wonderful experience and I truly enjoyed every second of it,” Roney said. “I coached some wonderful people and some great teams, but it takes every ounce of your energy if you’re gonna do it right.
“And now I’m using that energy to be a grandpa.”
The offensive system at McNamara under Roney and head coach Rich Zinanni has been diverse over the past 16 years — shifting from more traditional formations and systems to modern spread systems, with every season’s approach tailored to fit personnel.
Whether it be from that macro standpoint or the weekly perspective, adjusting gameplans week-by-week, Zinanni said Roney’s biggest asset was understanding defenses.
“What people don’t get is a good offensive coordinator understands defenses and their stress points,” Zinanni said. “Every defense has its weaknesses and it’s the job of the offensive coordinator to find those.
“Over the years we’ve run a midline option offense, some veer, some spread, and lately we’ve gone back to the I-formation to take advantage of our talents.”
When Roney first arrived as the freshmen football coach and varsity assistant in 1981, his first job out of college, the Irish took home a second-place IHSA Class 3A trophy, trading it in for a state championship in 1982. He was also an assistant for the school’s three-peat from 1985-1987, but for Roney, it was the 2015 state title, his only as the offensive coordinator, that is most important to him.
“We had a certain swagger about our team and knew if we played our game, we were gonna win,” Roney said. “There’s no feeling like winning a state championship, and it doesn’t last forever, but for about 30 minutes between winning the game on the field and then hugging every last player and coach in the locker room, there’s no feeling like it. It’s why we coach.”
Roney may have been a part of five titles, but those championships can’t combine to bring the joy he got from coaching his sons, Chris (a 2007 graduate) and David (a 2012 graduate).
“It’s the most special part of it ... there’s nothing like playing for your dad, and for me, there was nothing like coaching my sons,” Roney said. “I’ve coached a lot of great players and people, but my favorites are Chris and David Roney, without question.
“It’s something I wish for everyone, that they can be there to see their 14 year-old boys become 18 year-old men.”
Over the years, Roney’s reach has been found statewide. Brian Hassett, who was a part of the 1982 and 1985 championship teams, played on Roney’s freshmen squad as well in that 1982 season. Hassett, who held the same offensive coordinator position before he left and won a title as the coach at Prairie Central in 2003, said Roney was the biggest factor in him going down his own career path.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him ... Jack and Rich are two of the main reasons I do what I do,” Hassett said. “I’m thankful for Jack because he showed me the right way. We used to go to chapel and things like that before games and that kind of stuff stuck forever.”
Aside from his roles as assistant football coach and guidance counseler, Roney has also spent time as head boys basketball coach, phyiscal education teacher and dean of students over his tenure. Zinanni said that when he retired from his athletic director position in 2012, it was Roney who became the glue that kept him in tune with his students outside of their time spent on the field.
“When I retired he was the one there to communicate with the kids for me and he did everything when he and I were the only football coaches in the building,” Zinanni said. “The thing is he’s a good teacher of the things he knows ... and that’s what a good coach is. It isn’t about what you know, it’s about what the kids know.”
As for Roney’s replacement, with offensive assistant Chris LaMore also retiring from his role, Zinanni is currently working with a bevy of assistant coaches, including JJ Hollis, Alan Rood and Mike Yarborough. Zinanni said that due to coronavirus-related restrictions on summer practices and contact periods, he and his staff are still figuring out those details.