Kevin Cooney is in his 18th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic
University of the Atlantic Sun Conference and 22nd overall. A former pitching
star at Montclair State, Cooney has led FAU to an average of 46 wins per season
the past six years. He as guided the Blue Wave to a 273-106 record and five NCAA
Regionals in the past six years. This is the second year he has offered his thoughts on
baseball - and other things - for CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
March 16, 2005
Beware the Ides of March
Shakespeare warned us about this day in his play Julius Caesar.
It always is a time for me to beware, because each year we usually play
Rutgers University around this date. If you like close games decided in the
ninth, or extra innings, don’t miss an FAU–RU game.
We last lost in 1998. Since then, the scores have been: 5-3, 5-4, 6-5, 9-8,
and 12-11. That last game saw us come back from an 8-3 deficit to force extra
innings, only to have Rutgers take the lead with three runs in the 10th.
But we went on to score four in the bottom to pull out our fifth-straight win.
That pattern is due to change; I just hope it won’t be tonight.
This opponent always means a lot to me because I am from “the swamps of
Jersey.” It’s a tough state to get out of your blood.
I grew up in a small town in the northeast part of the state. Cedar Grove is
about a half-hour drive from Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden. The ski
slopes of Vernon Valley are the same distance to the north. Belmar and Asbury
Park would take me about an hour down the Garden State Parkway. Our altar boy
trip each year was to Bertrand’s Island at Lake Hopatcong. That old, rickety,
wooden roller coaster was scarier than any ride down at Great Adventure.
Two weeks of each summer were spent in a cottage at Ocean Beach, where my
brother and I body surfed, played miniature golf and, at night, netted crabs off
a dock by the bay. The Garden State Arts Center was a great place to buy lawn
tickets and, for two dollars, see Meat Loaf, Jackson Browne or James Taylor.
Essex Catholic was in a six-story converted insurance building in Newark. It
was a thriving place for 2,800 young males, trying to make some sense of
adolescence, under the watchful eyes (and hard rubber straps) of the Christian
Brothers of Ireland. Girls were found at CYO meetings and dances. Those sweaty
nights in the church basement and a Battle of the Bands, or a night at
Immaculate Conception HS (what an ironic name) where a nun would pry you off
your girl during a slow dance and caution you “to leave room for the Holy
New Jersey is where my Dad went seeking work in 1941 because he was tired of
tending bar in Scranton. After the war ended, he drove a bus for Public Service
for more than 30 years. He and my Mom lived in Irvington, and propped my brother
up at the bar at “Uncle Mike’s” tavern. They moved to Cedar Grove six months
after I came hook sliding into the world, and settled in on “mortgage hill” for
$10,000 – no money down.
I even stayed home for college. Montclair State was just over the hill past
the reservoir where we used to skinny dip. (Did people really drink that water?)
There were great teammates and great coaches at that school, and I am better
because of them.
Fred Hill later coached there and then was hired by Rutgers to jump start a
moribund baseball program.
They picked the right guy. That little Irishman is the most energetic,
hardest-working baseball man you ever saw. He quickly got the Scarlet Knights
back among the best programs in the Northeast, let alone the country.
His departure from Montclair opened the door of opportunity for me in the
fall of 1983.
That team went 17-1, splitting a doubleheader with Upsala on the last
weekend. Our record was good enough for the late Bill Dioguardi to entrust me
with the head job. Four years later, I was driving south on the Jersey turnpike
heading for the sunny state of Florida.
My car broke down when I arrived in Boca. I should have taken that as an
omen. This was not going to be as easy as I planned. But 18 years later, things
have worked out pretty well for this son of “The Garden State”.
Let’s hope tonight is a good night for “The Sunshine State”.
on the Ides…
It was announced today that our basketball coach will not be retained.
Sydney Green is a nice man who will now have to regroup and start over
elsewhere. It’s a fact of life that coaches get fired. In college basketball and
football, it’s not an unusual or new story. Heck, even college baseball coaches
are held to a hotter fire than ever before.
All I know is that I have managed to outlast four basketball coaches, two
presidents and three AD’s.
It’s not easy to get fired. You have to face your family and friends and deal
with the perception or reality of a public failure.
I remember when I was told that I wasn’t being re-hired, (1991 – see my bio
for details) the hardest part was lying in bed wondering what I would tell my
sons, Jim and Jeff. How would I explain that their Dad was no longer a baseball
coach? They each thought that I was special because of my job, but would I be
special to them as a regular working guy?
Thankfully it worked out that we still don’t know that answer. I got re-hired
and am still a coach.
There is a trickle-down effect with the firing of a head coach. The entire
staff usually is let go as well, as a new boss would probably want his own
people. So when we feel badly for Coach Green and his family, remember too, that
the loss is being shared by other men, their wives and young kids.
It’s a business. We just try not to translate that fact to our players.
Sometimes it’s hard to hide.
Conference Sweep (3/13/05)
Madness and Soaring Eagles (3/11/05)
Viva Las Vegas (3/8/05)
The Rocket, and a Black and Blue Big Ten Weekend (3/1/05)
So You Wanted to Coach (2/21/05)
Mickey was the Story (2/15/05)
The Rocket's Red Glare (2/11/05)
It's a Dog's Life (2/3/05)
'You've Got to Learn to Live with What You Can't Rise Above' (1/31/05)
25 Years of FAU Baseball (1/16/05)
So this is Christmas (12/24/04)
The Graduate (12/8/04)
Thanksgiving in Palm Beach County (11/25/04)
An Empty Seat (11/10/04)
Fall is in the Air (10/21/04)
Hurricane Carmen (9/24/04)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)