Every man wants to leave a legacy – whether that individual is a husband, a father, a construction worker or a journalist.
The same can be said for a coach who makes an impact on so many young lives on a year-round basis.
That has been the case with Blue Springs High School football coach Kelly Donohoe the past 20 years as he has led his Wildcats to 191 wins – the top mark for a big class school over two decades.
It should surprise no one that Rockhurst is second, with 190.
In the biggest prep bombshell in recent history – although, it really surprised no one who was close to the situation – Donohoe announced his retirement from Blue Springs at the end of this school year to replace his friend Tony Severino, who is retiring after 37 years at Rockhurst.
The announcement came Thursday after Donohoe met with his staff and players to let them know the news. Seconds later, his cell phone exploded. During a half hour interview, he received more than 100 calls and texts and quipped, “I’m glad I’m not a social media guy or this would drive me crazy.”
In the world of karma, both Donohoe and Severino struck it rich Friday as they are in Columbia, where they will be inducted into the Football Coaches of Missouri Hall of Fame, an honor they richly deserve and a brief time where they can keep their cell phones on mute.
“When I got the call that I was going into the Hall of Fame, I got a little nostalgic,” Donohoe said as his cell phone buzzed and beeped. “I had no idea we were the winningest big class school over the last 20 years until (head track coach and historian) Joe Cusack showed me some numbers.
“What they mean is pretty simple – I’ve had a great staff and wonderful players.”
The stats include:
• Four state championships
• 7 state final four appearances
• 8 semifinal game appearances
• 16 state quarterfinal appearances
• 14 district championships
• 18 postseason appearances
• A 191-53 career record, in which the Wildcats never had a losing season
“And Kelly didn’t just win,” district activities director Mark Bubalo said, “he won the right way. He’s engaging, smart, a fun guy to be around. He has a great family and he has meant a lot to this school and our community.”
When asked if he had any regrets over the past 20 years, the coach had a ready response.
“I didn’t know when we’d play our last game here, because of the playoffs and all that, and I wish I could have had one last go-around to shake our fans’ hands and thank them because they were always with us from day one.”
Day one seems like light years ago when a young coach who had enjoyed great success in three years at Raytown South High School, where he was 25-7, was approached by Blue Springs.
“Gosh, that seems like such a long time ago,” Donohoe said, grinning, “and I guess it is. This has been my home, my family lives here in Blue Springs – and I hope we’re still welcome after this announcement – and I love it here. I have memories that will last a lifetime.”
And now it is time to make new memories at the school he battled for two decades, with the games against Rockhurst and Blue Springs South circled on the schedule within moments after it was announced.
“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.”
He will retire with a full pension from Blue Springs and because he is going to a private school, he will collect a paycheck from Rockhurst.
“Listen,” said Tim Crone, the man who hired him and a former coach who has been Donohoe’s mentor for 20 years, “you can’t say no to that. People are going to be upset, but Kelly is thinking about his family and when it comes right down to it, I don’t know how anyone could say no.”
Bubalo agreed, adding, “For 20 years Kelly has thought about his football team, it was a top priority, now he is thinking about his family and we wish him a lot of success.”
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC