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Hall-of-fame Q&A with Stepinac's Mike O'Donnell

After 37 years coaching football at Stepinac, Mike O'Donnell is still going. He will be inducted into the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame Oct. 20, 2016.

Stepinac football coach Mike O'Donnell is pictured during his team's win over Cardinal Hayes in the 2015 CHSFL 'AAA' championship game at Fordham University.

Stepinac football coach Mike O’Donnell is pictured during his team’s win over Cardinal Hayes in the 2015 CHSFL ‘AAA’ championship game at Fordham University.

Name: Mike O’Donnell

Bio: The 56-year old was born and raised in Yonkers. He now lives in White Plains with his wife, Carla, and is a father of three grown kids, Maggie, Conor and Liam. O’Donnell played football and basketball at Blessed Sacrament and attended Iona College before he began coaching football at Stepinac in 1980. O’Donnell became the head football coach in 1988. He also coached freshman basketball for 10 seasons and the varsity “B” for four and even once coached a tennis match.

O’Donnell once owned two popular pubs in White Plains (Dooley Mac’s, Finn McCool’s) and even served as the Grand Marshal of the White Plains St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2005. He joined the school full-time as Stepinac’s director of athletics in 2005.

In his 29 years as the head football coach, O’Donnell has posted a 180-136-1 record, including five CHSFL titles. His coaching career is highlighted by a 24-1 mark and back-to-back CHSFL “AAA” championships in 2014-15. Last year’s team won just the second-ever Catholic state championship game.

O’Donnell has coached three athletes who went on to play professionally: Eric Ogbogu (NFL), Marty Conlon (NBA) and Brian Sweeney (MLB). There are currently over 40 Stepinac football players competing at the college level.

Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell shouts at his players during the third quarter against Iona Prep in New Rochelle on Sept. 7, 2007.

Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell shouts at his players during the third quarter against Iona Prep in New Rochelle on Sept. 7, 2007.

Favorite memory: “There have been many great memories,” O’Donnell said. “But in 2001 we beat Iona Prep on a last-minute touchdown when Tyler Nugent picked off a pass from John O’Neill and took it to the end zone. That game was the first Joe Riverso Memorial Game (named in honor of the former assistant who died on 9/11). That night was also our first night game and the place was packed. It went crazy. It was a packed house. That was a moment we will always cherish.”

Biggest moment: “Two things: 1. Winning a state championship last year with a 12-0 record. 2. Being able to help so many young men go on and be successful. Watching these guys grow up and go on to a great college never gets old.”

What it means to be in the hall of fame: “I honestly never thought I would be considered for such an honor. The people who are being honored and past recipients of the award is a star-studded group of coaches, players and people who meant so much to Westchester sports. I am excited to be inducted. My family and Stepinac is excited to be recognized for the work that we do with the young athletes of Westchester County.”

Quotable: “People throw around the term ‘family’ a lot in football, but there is not family like O’D’s Stepinac football family,” said assistant coach Jonathan Demarco, who played for O’Donnell and is in his 11th year as the defensive coordinator. “Twenty-eight years at the same school produces a pretty large family. He has never left Stepinac and never wants to leave Stepinac. He never wants to leave his family.”

The induction banquet is scheduled for Thursday evening, Oct. 20, at the County Center in White Plains. For reservations, contact Kevin Cook at 914-231-4564 or kdc2@westchestergov.com. The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Westchester Parks Department. The plaques are on permanent display at the County Center.

Twitter:@lohudinsider

Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell is pictured during practice in 2015.

Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell is pictured during practice in 2015.

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