Citing a desire to spend more time with his young family while also concentrating on his duties as the school’s athletic director, Scott Connolly stepped down as the head football coach at Salem High School yesterday.
The 40-year-old Connolly had been the Witches’ head coach for the last 10 seasons. Only coaching legends Ken Perrone (22 years) and Bill Broderick (21 years) manned the Salem sidelines longer than Connolly.
“There’s never a good time to get out. There’s always another group of seniors you want to coach, another class of great kids coming up through the program,” Connolly said last night. “In some ways, you feel like you’re letting them down. And being from Salem myself, I have a deep connection with all the students-athletes here and have been in their shoes.
“But it’s time. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about since our daughter (Avery) was born (7 months old). We’ve got four kids now and my wife (Rene) has a full-time job, and I have plenty to do as the school’s athletic director. Plus, with the things I want to do with my career, this was the right move for me.”
Connolly is the third North Shore football coach to leave his post this month, joining ex-coaches Sean Rogers (Danvers High) and Jim O’Leary (St. John’s Prep).
Recently accepted into a program geared towards eventually becoming certified to become a principal or assistant principal made Connolly’s decision to retire from football a bit easier, he said.
“To be honest, I think it was hardest on my three sons (10-year-old Jake, 8-year-old Luke and 5-year-old Tyler). But once I told them they could still be on the sidelines during football games, they were fine with it,” Connolly laughed.
“The best part for me is that I’m still around as AD and will have a huge role in hiring our new coach.”
Victories did not come easy for the Witches during Connolly’s tenure; they went 32-77 in 10 years with just one winning season, coming in 2010 (6-5). But more than the wins and losses, he said, were the bonds he made with his student-athletes and continued support of the Salem community. “That’s what it’s all about,” said Connolly.
Five of Connolly’s players (John Robinson, Tommy Shute, Matt Paine, Taylor Charlton and Joey Dinh) came back to coach under him, a fact he’s particularly proud of. Two of his favorite victories came on the road over arch rival Beverly on Thanksgiving Day, both in 2008 (when Melikke Van Alstyne rushed for a school record 302 yards) and two years later in 2010, when the Witches knocked off the eventual Super Bowl champs.
Connolly was a football star at Salem High, graduating in 1991 before going on to prep a year at Bridgton Academy. From there, he played football and wrestled at Ithaca College in New York, graduating in 1996 before going on to his graduate studies and getting his Masters from Springfield College.
In 1997, he was hired at the Fieldston School in the Bronx, where he taught physical education and coached football and track and field for seven years before coming to Salem in 2004.
Saying “there’s a lot more I want to do as AD for all sports”, one of Connolly’s biggest chances now will be hiring his successor. He’s looking for someone who can not only understand the sense of pride and community that is Salem, but that can also work with the city’s successful youth football program and its volunteers.
Head coaching experience isn’t a must, said Connolly; he’ll be looking for the right person to help bring Salem — a program that hasn’t won a Northeastern Conference title since 1999 — back on the map.
“We’re looking for someone willing to put in a ton of work to make the program all it can be,” said Connolly, who thanked Salem Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Russell and Salem High principal David Angeramo for the their constant support. “We want someone who understands how much the community of Salem plays into all athletics, but definitely the football team, too. We just want the best candidate.”