Photo courtesy of Mr. Daren Brubaker | After 13 years of coaching Mr. Patrick O’Neill leaves Brophy with 12 state championships under his coaching.
By Juan Carlos Ramirez ’18
At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, head swim coach and math teacher Mr. Patrick O’Neill, will finalize his last year at Brophy.
According to Athletic Director Mr. Bill Woods, Mr. O’Neill’s departure was based on many factors that weighed heavily on his decision.
“I think it was a lot of things, but one of them was the state retirement system is much different than the Brophy retirement system,” Mr. Woods said. “That is one of the factors in his decision to go back to public schools. He was in the state retirement system before he came to Brophy, and as he nears retirement age, that’s one of the things that is financially in the best interest of his family.”
He added that the state retirement system would provide Mr. O’Neill with a monthly annuity.
Brophy’s retirement system would just provide an individual account.
Mr. O’Neill has been part of Brophy’s staff since 2004 and has continued the undefeated record of 30 consecutive state championships–12 of which were won under his coaching.
Principal Mr. Bob Ryan said that he can recount the day that Mr. O’Neill came in to talk about his decision.
“He told me that he had some conversations with the district that he came from in Mesa over the course of the year,” Mr. Ryan said. “They really came after him to come and return to Mesa. Given the age of his daughters, he thought that it would be a better move for his family for him to go back to the Mesa school district.”
He added that Mr. O’Neill will be coaching at Red Mountain High school.
Many swimmers have come and gone to Division One college swimming programs under his coaching.
Varsity swimmer Patrick Schram ’18 said that Mr. O’Neill is an exemplifying religious man.
“He is a very religious man,” Schram said. “I did not know that at first, but after going on all the retreats with him and spending time with him outside of class and after swim meets, he takes his faith very seriously. He really enjoys being a man of faith.”
On the day Mr. O’Neill announced his departure to the team, Schram said it was a big shock.
“The day that coach pulled us all aside, we met in his class,” Schram said. “It was really tough. We sat all there for a minute in silence and it was like ‘wow, this guy is leaving us.’ It doesn’t seem like it because in the moment it’s just the teammates and yourself in the pool, but really when you take that away and look at the person behind it — he is really our leader. He has brought us from where we were, to where we want to be and where we hope to be. It was really emotional.”
Woods was the math department chair at the time of Mr. O’Neill’s hiring.
“I am more than just the athletic director because I was the math department chairman when we hired him as a math teacher,” Mr. Woods said. “He has had a tremendous impact on our campus over the time that he’s been here—both in the classroom and as the swim coach.”
Varsity swimmer Tim Lafave ’18 said that Mr. O’Neill had a strategic way of coaching, which he has learned to understand.
“One thing that I have taken from him is how to put people in the best position to win,” LaFave said. “So we can have one guy who is not swimming his best event, but if it is best for the team, that is where we will put him in. Whatever is best for the team, that is what needs to happen.”
As of right now, Mr. Woods said that Mr. Ryan and him already have many candidates for the new head coaching position.
He added that they will make a final decision around the beginning of April.
Mr. Ryan said that there are specific qualifications, other than experience in the sport, that he reviews before making the final verdict of hiring a coach.
“Any good coach is a good teacher,” Mr. Ryan said. “So our preference is always that we hire coaches that can teach on campus. That is not always possible. Frankly, we look for a lot of the same characteristics we look for when hiring a new teacher … Somebody who has maximized the gifts that they were given—and then has the interest and ability in drawing that out of the young people of whom they work.”
He added that specifically for the swim program, he expects a coach who knows the sport, is able to administer specific details and able to find a good balance between caring and pushing the swimmers.
Schram said Mr. O’Neill has taught him to trust in the process.
“It is 100 percent enjoying the process,” Schram said. “He always reminds you, every day, why you are here, and it is because you love the sport.”
Mr. Ryan said that he wishes nothing but the best for Mr. O’Neill as he continues his life.
“Thanks for all his hard work and years of service at this school,” Mr. Ryan said. “He has impacted lots and lots of lives here during his time with us. His legacy will endure long after he goes. Red Mountain and the school district are lucky to have him back.”