Whicker: Kevin Rooney’s first year off the sidelines has been as strange as all of ours

There is never enough time until there is too much.

Kevin Rooney had no intention of retiring when he did. For 40 years he coached Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, winning four titles in the southern section.

His players were asked to get good grades, play hard, behave and speak civilized language. Rooney’s strongest nickname was “God Bless America!”

“People asked me about retirement,” Rooney said. ‘I would say,’ What would I do that for? I don’t hunt, fish or golf. ‘

‘I loved what I did. We had a family atmosphere and a lot of support from the administration. ”

On the good Thanksgiving days, the knights practiced Thursday morning, were fed by a committee of parents, and then went home for the big feast. “That meant we were still playing,” Rooney said. Busier was better.

After the 2019 season, Rooney stepped aside. He had also been the athletic director. He decided to turn the whistle to Joe McNab, his offensive coordinator and relative short-timer at Notre Dame, as he was only 39 years old there.

He was not concerned about completing the available hours. There would be football for Notre Dame every Friday night in the fall, right? All weekend he sat with a notepad, and when he saw an interesting piece, he’d write it down for an unknown third and tall.

Then came 2020, disruptive time.

“Usually I’m just trying to find a game,” Rooney said, laughing.

The Knights will start playing in early 2021. Rooney said that’s when he’ll find out if he’s missing coaching. At the moment he tries to distinguish weeks from months, just like us.

“First I went skiing,” said Rooney. “I hadn’t done that in twenty years, but I went to Utah and Idaho. Now I can’t really do that because of the pandemic. I work on projects around the house, but the real joy is seeing the two grandchildren. I do that every other day. They are only a few miles away. ”

They all come by on Thursday, the three daughters and the children. Brynn and her husband Greg will bring Cade, 4, and Tate, 2, and Kaitlin and Kara will be there too.

It’s also gonna be the second Thanksgiving without Maureen.

Rooney met her in Santa Clara, where he caught passes from future NFL quarterback Dan Pastorini. They got married 40 years ago.

Maureen was stricken with leukemia in March 2018. She passed away on October 30. Rooney missed three games. He was there in 2019, but somehow he lost whatever it is that propels us all forward. He stepped down after the 6-5 season.

it should be noted that Notre Dame ran Rancho Verde 38-28 in the 2018 semifinals, with 1:09 left. A long touchdown pass, an onside kick recovery and another long touchdown pass beat the Knights 41-38. That was Rooney’s last playoff game.

“I thought we were going to be pretty good last year, but a lot of things happened that were difficult to deal with,” said Rooney. “That was a tough way to lose the year before. I didn’t think I was doing my best for the team. I didn’t have the fire to do all the work, and that was a lot. ”

During the 2018 season, Rooney would drive to the UCLA Medical Center in the morning. In the afternoon he would go back to practice. There were more than a few phone calls during practice itself, and there were times when Rooney told Maureen he couldn’t handle going to the games, and she insisted he find a way.

“When I was able to get out of the hospital and be with the players, I was fine,” said Rooney. “But I left my heart with her.”

Rooney returned for a quarter-final victory over Los Alamitos. He left with 316 wins and 16 conference championships.

“What has changed is the amount we are demanding from the players,” said Rooney. “There is more work outside the field and in the classroom. The only bad part really is the way some parents try to position their kids to get scholarships. It’s like, “If I don’t get a scholarship, why should I play?” I think there is more than that. ”

Rooney readily admits that he is prone to “itchiness” when the games return. Maybe someday he will become someone’s assistant coach. For now there will be more football this weekend than he can watch and although he says he looks “a little different now”, the pen and pad are retrievable.

Someone has to make time to play some defense.