It may have been more than just happenstance that mere days after Nick Monica was named the new head football coach at Rummel, it was announced that Frank Monica would be enshrined in the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame.
After all, the Monicas have become to coaching what the Mannings are to quarterbacking.
“He kind of told us over Christmas break that the (Hall of Fame) announcement was going to be made,” Nick Monica said. “Obviously, I think it’s well deserved. He’s definitely put in the time. He’s done a lot, not just for himself but for high school coaches in general.
“For myself, I wasn’t necessarily looking for (the head job at Rummel). It popped up. I had to lean on him (his dad) to kind of help me get through this.”
The younger Monica, an assistant football coach and head baseball coach at Rummel, was announced as the new head football coach of the Raiders after Jay Roth decided to step down to concentrate on his athletic director role.
“I thought it might come a couple of years down the line,” Nick said of the getting a head coaching job in football. “I was flattered that he (Roth) thought enough of me to hand-pick me to be his replacement. At the same time, I was content with what I was doing – running the defense. I had mixed feelings about it.”
“I’m excited for him,” said Frank. “I don’t know for sure what his long-range goal but the opportunity arose and I think he thought about it for two or three weeks before he decided to accept it. He had anxious moments about his baseball team and stuff like that. He’s worked hard and I think he is looking forward to the challenge. It will be a challenge following the legacy like Jay Roth has left. Playing the Catholic League is a pressure cooker. He’s excited, yet I think he is cautiously optimistic about the future.”
What does father think son will bring to the Rummel football program?
“I think the relationship he has with his players,” said Frank. “He’s worked under Jay and Jay will sort of be a mentor to him since Jay is remaining as the athletic director. That’s a big thing because I think the staff will continue to be unified. They, and the administration, supported him through the whole thing. That was a big, big key in his making this decision.”
Entering his 50th year in the coaching profession, the elder Monica has won 269 games a three state championships in 28 years as a high school football head coach, along with spending a total of 12 years as an assistant at Tulane.
When looking for advice, Nick didn’t have to look far to find someone among the most qualified in the business to give it.
“He is coming up on 50 years of coaching experience so he’s been able to give tons of people advice, not just myself,” the younger Monica said. “I was talking to a college coach the other day and he’s weighing offers right now and he said, ‘I have to call your dad.’ He’s a guy a lot of people turn to for different things.
“He’s definitely made his mark as a coach. I guess it’s a little bit different when he’s talking to his son because dad comes out a little bit. I think he wants to make sure that he is protective like all parents, so I’m sure he talks to us (his children) different than he talks to other coaches.”
What advice does father have for son?
“There are some characteristics of me that he certainly doesn’t want to emulate,” joked Frank. “He’s more level-headed and intuitive than I am. I do things the old-fashioned way by hand while he is more computer literate and he can do things a lot faster, but there are things he doesn’t want to copy from dad.
“I think it’s fairness and treating players the same. I think it’s important you do that. Players look through phoniness. They know who’s for them or not and who’s sincere and who generally cares about them in the long run. That is part of our philosophy just to do that – treat every player the same.”
For Frank, dad and coach are all rolled into one when it comes to his children.
“He’s always been supportive but there’s always been a lot of tough love there,” Nick recalled. “When we were playing, or even as a coach, he’s not afraid to tell you what he sees and what needs to be fixed. At the end of the day, even when he’s a dad, he’s a coach. He’s teaching you about life, it doesn’t necessarily have to be about sports or one of your teams.”
Nick and Frank Monica’s career have paralleled one another. Frank played baseball at Nicholls at a time when the school didn’t have football. Nick played baseball at the University of New Orleans, which doesn’t have football. Both have been prep head baseball coaches along with coaching football.
“It’s a heck of a coincidence that both of our paths started the same way,” said Nick. “I don’t think either one of us planned this. I know when he first got the football job at Lutcher was kind of the same way I was. He wasn’t necessarily looking for something else. Someone had a lot of faith and confidence in him to do it and he took it over and it took off from there. We’ve had a lot of similarities in our roads so far. I’d be lucky to have my career go the same way his went.”
“I think you learn from both sports,” said Frank. “Baseball requires a lot of little technique things. There are a lot more fundamentals involved on the baseball side. And when you teach, all those positions have a different skill set. In football, you have fundamentals, but not as many.
“You take the breakdown of teaching and the ability to teach and you take that over to football. All coaching is is just being a really good teacher. You have to do on a daily basis what is called, ‘daily musts.’ You can’t ignore the little things.”
The Monica family coaching tree stretches well beyond Frank and Nick. Ty, another son, is dad’s offensive coordinator at St. Charles Catholic. Wayne Stein, a nephew, is Frank’s defensive coordinator.
Add in Chris Daigle, who is the co-defensive coordinator at Lutcher and is married to Stein’s sister, and Raymond Monica, a cousin of Frank who is an assistant football coach at Southeastern Louisiana University, the Monica coaching tree stretches out far and wide.
“They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and I guess that’s something that that’s sort of unique in the family,” said Monica. “Ty and Nicholas were my sons, but Wayne was like a third son because he was never too far away and we still do things together as a group. What one person knows, the rest of us knows.
“We can all lean on one another when issues come up away from x’s and o’s and away from the field.”
It also led to very competitive athletic outings, even in the family back yard.
“We had a lot of relatives, cousins, who were around the same age and it always gave us some pretty competitive games, no matter what sport it was. The fact we were all of a similar age gave us some good competition,” said Nick.
Would the family competition cause Nick to want to stay around long enough to possibly top dad in career wins?
“Hopefully, I can do this long enough. I definitely enjoy it and have enough passion to stick around for a long time. I definitely enjoy what I do. I’d be fortunate to not only coach as long as he’s coached but also have the success he’s had through the years. I don’t think anybody would be upset to have the career he’s had.”