Comet athletic director lives by mantra of never giving up

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 16, 2013


LAPLACE – Long before St. Charles Catholic’s Frank Monica became one of the great winners among the prep football coaching ranks, he had a different vision: to become a pro baseball player.
It wasn’t to be.
“A scout told me that they liked everything about me, but I was too short,” said Monica. “So, I figured I’d do the next best thing.”
Anyone who has followed Monica’s career would likely find this to be a fitting origin story. The veteran coach has built a powerful program despite often lacking the biggest or the strongest athletes on the field. His mantra is consistent: he demands discipline, heart and perhaps above all, physical and mental toughness.
If a player exhibits these things, Monica is almost certain to find a place for him, regardless of size or athletic ability.
“You never give up on a kid,” said Monica, “because he can get bigger and stronger. We’ll have kids that start out here at under 100 pounds.”
After Monica put down the baseball bat to begin coaching, he was offered the position of head basketball coach at Grand Isle High School. He turned down that position and instead accepted a position at Lutcher High School to coach football and baseball.
“I didn’t feel comfortable about the Grand Isdle position because I didn’t have a background in basketball,” said Monica. “There’s no telling how things would have turned out had I accepted.”
Monica became Lutcher’s offensive coordinator while also serving as head baseball coach. In 1975, he led the baseball team to a state championship — which was the last state baseball championship for Lutcher prior to 2013 — before helping to lead the football team to a state championship later that year. Monica later ascended to head coach at Lutcher, giving up his baseball position. He was the architect of a state football champion in 1978.
Then Monica joined the college ranks as an assistant with Tulane in 1979. During his tenure, the Green Wave defeated LSU in three of four years, highlighted by a victory in 1982 that saw the Wave win despite entering the game as a 31-point underdog. Tulane went to two bowl games in that span.
“In one, across the field was Joe Paterno. In another, it was Lou Holtz,” said Monica. “That was a tremendous feeling.”
Monica rejoined the prep ranks, first with Riverside for a season, then with Jesuit for five. He rejoined the Tulane staff before finally landing at St. Charles Catholic. This time, he joined the school to be the head baseball coach, though that quickly changed.
“I was offered the chance to be the head football coach. I knew I couldn’t do both,” said Monica. “I chose football. My wife thought I was crazy, because I had a very good team coming back in baseball, and the football program was down and out at the time.”
SCC had just 12 seniors and was nowhere close to an upper-tier team. But he began to lay the foundation for something special, first focusing on building up the team’s numbers and doing so with the right kind of players.
“High character kids,” said Monica. “We didn’t care about size. We needed to build on kids with experience. Our sophomore class was bigger than that senior class … 23, 24 kids. So that was something we built on.”
That sophomore class grew up and led the Comets to a 9-1 record in their senior season. By 2005, SCC arrived as a contender, finishing as state runner-up. In 2006, the Comets did the same.
Both seasons ended at the hands of John Curtis, which became a trend for an ascending power — the Comets went on to lose two state semifinals, one to Curtis and another to Evangel in 2009 and 2010.
But that all set up a dream season in 2011. St. Charles hit the ground running and put together a dominating 15-0 campaign, capped off with a dramatic 9-8 victory in the Superdome over Amite to seal the first state championship in SCC history.
“It solidified the fact that all of the time and energy spent over the years by the players and coaches who came before led us to this,” said Monica. “The culture they helped establish, the program that was built.’
“People ask me, ‘Well, how many would you have if not for Curtis and Evangel?’ said Monica. “I always say, ‘We’ll never know.’ But I’d like to think that because we faced those juggernauts year in and year out, it pushed us to become better.”
The apples didn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to family. Sons Nick and Ty each became coaches as well. Nick is the head baseball coach and an assistant football coach at Rummel.
Ty is his father’s offensive coordinator and SCC’s head softball coach, leading the Comets to a championship in 2011. And nephew Wayne Stein, who Monica says is “like a son” to him, is the Comets defensive coordinator.
The three helped power that undefeated season, together.
“With the three of them, I never wanted to push them into this,” said Monica. “But growing up around it, it’s what they wanted. It’s been a very special experience.”