Kelly Donohoe says that he never allowed himself to think about taking over as Rockhurst High School football coach when Tony Severino retired.
But when the offer came in Tuesday morning, he found that it was too good to pass up.
Donohoe, who has won 191 games over the past 20 years and four state championships as the head coach of the Blue Springs High School football team, announced Thursday morning that he is leaving at the end of this school year to take over as head football coach of the Hawklets.
Donohoe’s 191 wins over the past decade are No. 1 among all Missouri big school programs, with Rockhurst’s 190 victories being in second.
There had long been speculation that Donohoe, who will retire and draw his Missouri pension, would look into the job vacancy left by Severino, his longtime friend, who retired after 37 seasons at Rockhurst.
“The whole thing has been surreal since Tuesday when I got the phone call (from Rockhurst, offering me the job) because of the wide range of emotions,” Donohoe said in his office Thursday, moments after meeting with his team and coaching staff to let them know about his decision.
“So many people I am so close to – our players and coaches, faculty members, members of the administration – you just grow so close to all those people,” he said. “Every year you have a special group of young men who really work hard for you and that is a special, special thing for me.”
But, Donohoe said, at this point in his career, to be offered a job like Rockhurst, “one that doesn’t come around but every 37 years,” he couldn’t say no.
“For years, people have said to me, ‘When Tony retires are you taking that job?’ And I always dismissed that,” Donohoe said. “They are such a rival, and why would I want to follow a legend? I never put that in my head, and that is the honest to God truth.”
“But when Tony stepped away, and a lot of people reached out to me, then you start thinking about that. And the season ends and you go talk to them and they are special people just like Blue Springs, and it is hard to say no to that opportunity, especially where I am in my career.
“I have to think about my family, and it is hard to say no to that offer.”
Blue Springs School District activities director Mark Bubalo said he expects between 40 and 50 resumes to arrive from coaches who will apply for the head coaching position. Donohoe, who won a recent battle with cancer, has also served as the Blue Springs activities director since the summer of 2017. Bubalo said the person who will fill that role will be determined at a later date.
“I’ve been working with Kelly for a long, long time, and we have had many conversations over the past few weeks,” Bubalo said, “and I know what a difficult situation this must be for him.”
“But it is a decision he made thinking about his family. We will always support him, and now, our job is to go out and find the best possible coach we can to replace him, and that is not going to be an easy task because Kelly has meant a lot to his school and this community for 20 years.”
At Blue Springs, Donohoe compiled a 191-53 record, including state championships in 2001, 2003, 2012 and 2013. Counting his prior seasons at Raytown South, his career coaching record is 216-60.