By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Nick Iarocci grew up watching St. John sports. He’s spent the last 23 years coaching one sport or another for the Heralds. He will spend the foreseeable future overseeing the entire St. John sports department as the school’s athletic director.
“I’ve coached everything from being an assistant basketball, baseball and football to being the girls basketball coach,” Iarocci said. “I played on the teams that played for back-to-back state championships in 1976-77. I was the assistant AD for the last 10 or 12 years.
“I grew up watching my brother play for St. John and my sister was the head majorette. It’s part of my lore, so to speak. Then I got to be a student-athlete there and send both of my kids there, too.”
Iarocci, who first began coaching at St. John in the spring of 1990 and moved into a position on his brother Dom’s coaching staff for football later that fall, and who will also remain as the Heralds’ girls basketball coach, is taking over the position from Dave Rozzo, who will remain a teacher at the school but is retiring from his post as AD.
“I love working with Dave and I’ll miss working with him,” Iarocci said.
Iarocci, himself, is retiring from his post at the water pollution plant in Ashtabula after 32 years in the business.
“My last day is July 31,” he said. “I’m taking one of the buyouts the city is offering. I hope to bring some of the passion I coach with to being an administrator. In no way will I be reducing my coaching responsibilities. I hope I can continue to thrive with both.”
Though most wives would have a honey-do list a mile long for a retiring husband to tackle, Iarocci’s wife, Nancy, is happy he will have a second career to pursue. His kids, Adrianna and Alex, are also happy for their dad.
“She’s excited for me,” Iarocci said. “I’m lucky to be getting out (of the water pollution business) while I can. Everything fell right into place.
“The whole family’s excited for me.”
Iarocci takes over the position at the St. John athletic department, as well as the school, is trying to build itself back up.
“I’m excited to be part of the vision of the future,” Iarocci said. “We’re looking to get back in to the OHSAA as quick as we possibly can. We haven’t talked about an exact date yet, but that’s something we’d like to do.
“I like working with Sister Maureen. All of that stuff is important and I hope to have some input as we go forward. Sister has allowed me to have a voice in the direction St. John is going. She made it perfectly that’s what she wanted from me and what she expected of me.”
Though he is moving on from the position, Rozzo will still be available if Iarocci needs assistance.
“Dave approached me and told me to just ask him if I needed help,” Iarocci said. “I unofficially helped my brother when he was the AD and I worked with Dave for a long time, so I have a little background in the job.
“But I will ask Dave when I need his help. I was happy to be his assistant the last 10 years.”
Though he will be the man officially in charge of scheduling the Heralds’ contests, Iarocci will rely on his coaches to give him direction in that regard.
“One-hundred percent, I will let the coaches schedule,” he said. “It’s foolish for the AD to schedule teams without the coaches’ input. I will talk to everyone who runs a program and have them give me a list of teams they want to play. I’ll make the calls.
“As a coach, I’ll be friendly toward the coaches and athletes. I won’t schedule back-to-back games just because it’s easy. I will make sure what I do is in the best interest of the athletes and teams.”
Iarocci couldn’t pick a better school community to be involved in. The support the St. John students and parents is rivaled by precious few.
“The support there is amazing,” Iarocci said. “I hear a lot about kids being trouble, but I look at the kids I’m able to work with and they have so much passion and commitment. I’m honored to be a part of their lives.”
Having spent the bulk of his life as a Herald, Iarocci has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows regarding the sports teams. He understands, though, that reliving the glorious past doesn’t do any favors for him in the present. In that regard, he has the exact approach as the entire administration does.
“I know a lot of the older people remember the past and remind the kids of it,” Iarocci said. “But we’re trying to start own past. We’re trying to create our own identity, our own legacy. We want to remember the past and look to the future.
“We want to make sure they wear that Herald name with pride and do things for the right reasons.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.