Welcome to ND
by BRYAN KRONK
Sports Copy Editor
The Irish football team got its Christmas present early this year.
Notre Dame could not have picked a better person to coach the Irish next year, and hopefully for many more years to come.
George O'Leary, in his first introduction to the Notre Dame public, won over the crowd with his direct, straightforward style, and his charming and personable nature.
Heck, after watching a 30-minute press conference, I feel like I already know the guy.
Raised in an Irish Catholic family in New York, he claims that the two best positions in sports are head coach of the Notre Dame football team and president of the New York Yankees.
Personally, I'd beg to differ with his second assessment, but I'll let it slide for now, coach.
Coach O'Leary said his mission as coach is to "win a lot of games" for the Irish. Hopefully his mission comes true very soon.
It almost seems too obvious that we would hire O'Leary to coach the Irish. His parents came through Ellis Island directly from Ireland. His family is Catholic. Irish and Catholic.
How could we turn this guy down?
"This is an exciting time for me. Notre Dame is the only job I would ever leave Georgia Tech for. It's the pinnacle of all coaching jobs," O'Leary said.
Obviously there are also some football-related qualities that Dr. White was looking for, but the intangibles that O'Leary brings to the program count almost as much. Both White and O'Leary (well, O'Leary merely agreeing with White) say that O'Leary is the perfect fit for our program. And I agree.
At Sunday's press conference, Dr. White said, "George has a genuine passion for Notre Dame and for the qualities that make the University unique beyond athletics."
This passion is a continuation of a string of massively successful seasons at Georgia Tech that has produced five consecutive post-season teams.
This genuine passion that O'Leary brings to the program just might be the edge that puts the Irish in serious contention for a post-season bowl in the near future.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. After all, the 2002 season is still over 260 days away — not that anyone's counting. But, as O'Leary himself asked Sunday, "When does spring football start?"
He is ready to go. And we are ready to have him. And for me, it is somewhat ironic to have a Coach O'Leary at Notre Dame.
Coming from a high school where our football coach was also a Coach O'Leary, I can't help but wonder if all the Coach O'Learys are following me around.
But seriously, the Coach O'Leary I knew from high school led our team to a state championship in 1997. I expect that the Coach O'Leary I know at Notre Dame will lead our team to very similar results in the not-so-distant future.
And it couldn't happen to a better guy.
Welcome to Notre Dame, Coach.
All Inside Stories for Monday, December 10, 2001