O'Leary Puts Past Behind Him

When Mike Tice hired his mentor, George O'Leary, last week as an assistant, it put an end to a trying month for the former Georgia Tech head coach.

George O'Leary has spent the past few months riding the equivalent of a coaching roller-coaster.

O'Leary led Georgia Tech to a 7-5 record and a berth in the Seattle Bowl this past season. However, O'Leary did not coach in the bowl game because he bolted Georgia Tech for a six-year contract at Notre Dame, where he was selected to take over for Bob Davie on Dec. 8.

But that's where the roller-coaster of O'Leary's coaching career began to descend — rapidly. Five days after taking the Irish position, reports surfaced that O'Leary had long ago padded his résumé when it came to academic and athletic success.

He claimed to have a master's degree in education from New York University and to have earned three letters playing football at the University of New Hampshire. Both proved to be false.

O'Leary was forced to resign.

The fact he was 52-33 in seven years at Georgia Tech, was twice named the coach of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and had led the Yellow Jackets to five consecutive bowl berths did not matter. O'Leary became a lightning rod for comedians and sports-talk hosts across the country.

But despite the piling on that was done by many, O'Leary didn't spend much time feeling sorry for himself. Mike Tice, who played for O'Leary at Central Islip High School in Long Island, knew this would be the case.

That is a reason one of the first moves Tice made after being named Vikings coach was to hire O'Leary as his defensive line coach.

"I've always told my players I can't stand self pity," said O'Leary, who also received an assistant head coach title with the Vikings. "It's how you handle setbacks that's important. I think that's what I'm doing.

"I'm just happy to be part of the picture right now. I'm looking forward to it. I've been dealing with a lot of other problems, as you know, but I'm looking forward to coaching, and that's what I really enjoy."

The post-Dennis Green Vikings, putting on a much more media-friendly face, even had a news conference to announce O'Leary's hiring. Tice, however, did request that reporters avoid asking O'Leary about the Notre Dame debacle.

"I am very happy and excited to have George on board because first and foremost he is a very close friend and, second, he is a very good football coach," Tice said. "I think we have upgraded our football staff tremendously.

"Anybody knows I'm going to lean on George tremendously. He has a lot more head coaching experience than I do. I want to make sure that people understand his role, not only as a defensive line coach but a sounding board for me and a mentor for me that I'm able to work with at this stage in my career."

In addition to his college experience at Georgia Tech, O'Leary also has coached in the NFL. He was the defensive line coach in San Diego in 1992-93.

O'Leary joined the Chargers after serving as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Georgia Tech from 1987-91. During his first stint at Georgia Tech, O'Leary worked with Brian Baker, who coached the Vikings defensive line this past season but has been reassigned to the linebackers. Before going to Tech, O'Leary spent the previous seven seasons (1980-86) at Syracuse, where he coached the defensive line.

With the Notre Dame situation largely behind him, O'Leary seems excited to move on to the next chapter of his coaching life.

"It's been a tough haul for my family," he said. "I think they walk tall, just like I do. I think you've got to move on and do the best you can with what you want to do. … I think it would be a tough [adjustment] if I didn't know the head coach as well as I do. I've coached in the pros before, so I'm very familiar with what takes place and what has to happen. I'm just anxious and very happy to be here with people that I know."

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