St. John pegs Paolina as new football coach

BELLAIRE – Discipline and consistency.

Those are the most important factors for St. John Central as it continues to move its football program forward.

The Fighting Irish will begin the 2013 campaign on the road at Troy Christian with their third coach in as many seasons.

St. John Central Principal Sheila Blackmore formally announced Monday afternoon that 1981 SJC graduate Jeff Paolina has been hired as the program’s new head coach.

“I am really looking forward to this opportunity,” Paolina said.

Paolina, who played football and wrestled for four years at SJC, takes over the job from Jason Merryman, who stepped down, after one season at the helm in which he guided the Fighting Irish to four victories. Prior to Merryman, Paul Rose served as the head coach.

Paolina sees the revolving door of coaches coming to an end with his hiring.

“Mrs. Blackmore wants consistency in the program,” Paolina said. “I’ve been around St. John’s for 45 years. I’m not going anywhere, anytime soon. I don’t plan on doing this for two years and walking away. I plan on doing this job for as long as they’ll have me.”

As for the discipline aspect, Irish players can expect Paolina to run an extremely tight ship.

“You’re definitely going to see discipline from our team,” Paolina said. “Coach Rose was a big disciplinarian and did a great job of that. I think we got away from that a little bit last year, but we’re going to get back into it now.”

While it’s his first formal head coaching position, this isn’t the first time St. John officials had approached Paolina to gauge his interest in ascending to the head coaching position.

However, it is the first time that he felt ready to take on the challenge.

“Because of my business schedule and, some other factors, I just didn’t feel ready previously,” Paolina said. “I’ve been on the staff, at different levels, for 10 years and have had the opportunity to learn a lot under several different coaches. I just feel honored and privleged that Mrs. Blackmore had the faith in me that I’d be able to take the program forward.”

Though it’s already the middle of March, Paolina doesn’t feel like he’s too far behind in his preparations and off-season program because he’s been overseeing the strength and conditioning program.

“We’ve got a lot of interest in our off-season program from kids,” Paolina said.

While wins and losses are obviously the ultimate measuring stick in success, Paolina believes there is still a lot more to be considered.

“The consistency in the program and the ability to move it forward, mold these young men and prepare them for life after high school football is very important to us,” Paolina said.

Paolina believes the Irish could have upwards of 30 players out for the squad this season.

“We’ve four or five kids coming to weights that had never come out before and they’re looking forward to playing,” Paolina said. “Our numbers should be up.”

The increase in numbers hasn’t been an over-night process. The combination of more success last season with the renovations to the school and the building of the field, which Paolina, and his family, were instrumental in have all played a role.

Paolina has already begun the process of formulating a coaching staff and there will be some holdovers from last year’s staff.

Staskey can be reached at