There will be no goodbye parties, final salutes, hardy handshakes or warm embraces as Kelly Donohoe leaves Blue Springs High School after a remarkable 20-year career.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, hallways and offices are empty, classes have gone virtual, conversations are in group chats and fields are vacant.
Donohoe, who won 191 games and four state championships over the past 20 years as the head coach of the Blue Springs football team, is leaving at the end of this school year to take over as head coach at longtime rival Rockhurst, replacing longtime coach Tony Severino.
Donohoe’s wins over the past decade are No. 1 among all Missouri big school programs, with Severino’s 190 victories second.
There had long been speculation that Donohoe, who will retire and draw his Missouri public school pension, would look into the job vacancy left by Severino, his longtime friend who retired after 37 seasons leading the Hawklets.
“The past six weeks have been strange for all of us,” said Donohoe, who is also the Blue Springs activities director. “I’m sitting here in my office, looking at the board where we schedule all our activities for the spring, and we didn’t have any of them.
“I feel so bad for all the students and coaches, but my heart just breaks for the seniors who are missing out on so much this spring. There is just this empty feeling, and I know so many people who are experiencing that.”
Donohoe said his two decades at Blue Springs created a lifetime of memories – on and off the football field.
“My daughter Taylor graduated from here and was on the front row every Friday for those 2012 and 2013 state championship teams’ games,” he said. “And my son Chase played for us, and that was so special. I think it might have been more fun for me, as a dad, than it was for Chase, because there were times I had to get on his friends, and I know that was always tough for Chase.
“My wife Jen teaches in Blue Springs and there are 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.
“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.”
Donohoe told The Examiner when he announced his retirement from Blue Springs to take the Rockhurst post, “Jobs like this one don’t come around but every 37 years.
“For years, people have said to me, ‘When Tony retires are you taking that job?’ And I always dismissed that. 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 that all changed when Severino announced last August that he would retire after the 2019 season.
“When Tony stepped away, a lot of people reached out to me, then you start thinking about that,” Donhoe said. “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.”
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 head coaching record is 216-60. He served as an assistant coach at Blue Springs South prior to becoming the Cardinals’ head coach.
“If I had a crystal ball back when I was offered the Blue Springs coaching job, I could not have dreamed of a better scenario than the one I experienced,” Donohoe said. “This has been better than I ever could have dreamed of. It’s been so special.”