By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The revolving door at Queen of Peace continued to spin out of control recently. Not only is principal John Bellocchio leaving after just two years, but it was learned that both football coach Bob Kearns and softball coach George Steel were not retained.
Kearns, who has spent the majority of his adult life at Queen of Peace in some capacity, including two stints as the head football coach, was caught blindsided by the move.
“I received a phone call from (athletic director) Joe Torchia Tuesday morning at 9 in the morning to tell me that I wasn’t going to be rehired,” Kearns said. “I didn’t even get a chance to meet with my players. I had the legs cut out from under me. I was crushed by it. I’ve been there for 35 years and I get a phone call. It reeks of unprofessionalism.”
Kearns was asked to come out of retirement to take over the program after Steve Romano left two years ago.
“They asked me to come back,” said Kearns, who guided the Golden Griffins to a 6-5 record, a berth in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 1 state playoffs and a victory in the first round of the state tournament in 2013, before posting a 1-8 record last season. “I’m a QP guy, so I said I’d do it. They only had 26 kids in the program, but I took it.”
Kearns said that he established a good working commitment from the Brick City Lions youth football team in Newark, with as many as 20 products of that organization going to Queen of Peace beginning in the fall.
“We basically had a team of all freshmen and sophomores,” Kearns said. “I knew that we were going to take our lumps this year. I formed a bond with those kids. But I knew that we would be better off down the road.”
Now, Kearns will not get the opportunity to coach those kids.
“It’s like getting a punch in the face,” Kearns said. “I’m devastated. I can go on and on about the nonsense that goes on there. I never had anything like this happen to me before. It’s just unbelievable what’s gone on.”
Kearns was commuting daily from Tinton Falls to coach the team.
“I had to drive back and forth with no one paying for the tolls,” Kearns said. “I was trying to build a little consistency that QP has never had. But it just goes up and down and out the door. It’s a circus.”
Over the last 12 years, Queen of Peace has gone through eight different head football coaches. There’s no consistency there at all.
There has also been the hiring of someone like Mike Miello as athletic director, to make a huge splash, bringing someone in who had been a successful head coach at Ramapo and Hackensack and a college coach at Rutgers and William Paterson. Miello didn’t last a full week at the school.
Last fall, the school promoted former All-State football player Joe Torchia to the role of athletic director. Torchia, who went from QP to the University of Virginia as a tight end, then had a solid tryout with the Washington Redskins, took over from long-time athletic director Ed Abromaitis, who has bounced in and out of the AD chair for the last four years.
Torchia was asked about the firing of Kearns as football coach.
“It was a decision made by the school’s administration to look elsewhere,” Torchia said. “There were various reasons behind the board’s decision, but those will remain internal.”
Torchia was asked about the school asking a loyal soldier like Kearns to take the head football coaching position.
“When he was hired, it was not under my tenure,” Torchia said.
Sure, because no one can keep up with when what coach was hired when. It’s a complete revolving door, spinning out of control. Kearns and Steel are just pawns in what is a complete disorganized mess. There’s no denying it.
“I didn’t know about (Kearns’) 35 years at Queen of Peace,” Torchia said. “We thanked him for his services and wished him luck.”
Torchia was asked about the means in which Kearns was terminated – meaning the early morning phone call.
“He was notified in writing as well,” Torchia said. “There’s no policy that says he had to be told face-to-face.”
How about Kearns meeting with his players before being shown the door?
“There was no need for that,” Torchia said. “We just want someone to come in and make Queen of Peace successful in the future. We’re excited for the future and what’s best for the kids.”
The new softball coach has already been hired in former QP standout Leanne Sleboda, who served as Steel’s assistant last year. The new football coach could be anyone’s guess. There is talk that Torchia may move up in the school’s administration and that there could be a new athletic director, maybe even Abromaitis, who has been unceremoniously removed from the AD slot twice in the last six years.
One thing is for sure: The new football coach won’t be Bob Kearns.
“I will never go back,” Kearns said. “If I did, I’d have to be in a straitjacket.”
And another thing is certain: The coaching wheel keeps spinning like a revolving door. One coach leaves, another arrives. One after another. There is certainly no consistency, but that lack of consistency can be spelled with just two letters – QP.