Mooney AD’s role: to give kids ‘best possible experience’

Everhart Everhart

You were once the director of athletics for 750 boys.

Now, you’re the athletic director for 150 boys and girls.

What’s the difference? Mathematically, 600 students. But it’s more than quantity. It’s quality that always matters.

That’s the position Brian Kelly is in these days. Up until the summer of 2016, when he suddenly departed from Warren De La Salle (about which, he says, there’s no need for embellishment), he coached baseball for 26 years, winning three state championships, and for about 12 years was the athletic director, during which time the Pilots won five state titles and were runners-up four times, and 20 Catholic League championships.

These days, Kelly travels a half-hour to the Catholic League’s far eastern outpost along the St. Clair River as the athletic director (and also assistant principal) at Cardinal Mooney High School in Marine City.

His traveling is limited while he’s in the middle of a two-month recuperation from back surgery in January, so I caught up with him by phone at his home.

An AD’s job description is similar, be it for a large or a small school. “What you want to provide for the kids doesn’t change,” Kelly said. “High school is the best time for kids. You want to give them the best possible experience.”

Achieving that goal depends on available resources. “I’m learning what the community wants, what motivates kids and parents, and then trying to implement the kinds of things everyone wants,” he says.

One of the first things Kelly paid attention to was the weight room, securing new equipment “to maximize the small space we have” for both boys and girls. “I’ve noticed the confidence level in the kids has gotten better.”

Boys basketball coach Mike McAndrews, who praises Kelly for his “knowledge and vision,” agrees. “The seniors pulled the varsity together and worked hard during the off-season.”

Setting the example was his nephew, senior point guard Daniel Everhart, a four-year starter, who has crossed the 1,600-career points mark for a school record and has established himself as one of the premier players in the CHSL.

Basketball is in Daniel’s DNA. His mother, Susan Everhart (nee McAndrews, Mike’s sister), coached Cardinals girls basketball for 25 years, reaching the 2009 Class D finals, losing to New Lothrop.

When the MHSAA decreed that girls and boys basketball will be played at the same time of the year, she retired to watch Daniel. It might be a while before she decides to return with sons, freshman Kevin and sixth-grader Brian, coming along.

“Daniel was with me in the gym all the time. He became a student of the game. I think he has great basketball IQ,” she said.

Mike McAndrews, a 1993 Mooney grad, is in his 20th year coaching the boys. He, like his sister, took his team to the state Class D finals with a similar fate, dropping the 2010 title game to Muskegon Christian.

This winter’s squad with a 14-4 record gained statewide recognition, ranked season-long in the top 10 in Class D, as high as second.

Don Horkey Don Horkey

The Cardinals realized one pre-season goal — to win the CHSL Intersectional 2 Division — but fell agonizingly short of the other goal, to return to Calihan Hall for the first time since 2005. Madison Heights Bishop Foley (6-11) upset the Cardinals, 78-77, in overtime in the CHSL playoff last Saturday.

Next on the schedule, a new season: the state tournament starting March 5.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].