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Coach Maloney in the spotlight!

Posted Thursday, November 27, 2008 by Carpinello Lohud Blog

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The Journal News

Maloney brings defensive strategy, laughs


By Rick Carpiniello
Journal News columnist • November 27, 2008

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RYE - Thanksgiving dinner is generally not one from which you eat and run.

Although Tommy Maloney, the defensive coordinator at Rye High, certainly has.


"I remember having Thanksgiving dinner at my brother Chris' house," said Maloney, a varsity assistant since 1977. "And we had a special guest for dinner that day in (team manager) Luke Walsh. I recall leaving Chris' about 5 o'clock, going to the high school with Luke, jumping on the bus and heading north to Syracuse."

That was 2004. The Garnets will be able to digest their turkey at home this year, although they will practice first, and Saturday they will go to Syracuse for the fifth time in six years for the state Class B championship game on Sunday.

Maloney is more than going for the ride. If Hall of Fame head coach Dino Garr is doing the steering, then Maloney, 55, has the gas and the brakes. They have been together since Garr's second year, when Maloney (originally hired by John Nugent) was promoted from the freshman team, and except for a six-year period when Garr coached at Westlake while Maloney remained at Rye.

In fact, Maloney has been on the sideline for 224 Rye varsity wins - the last 24 in a row - while the state semifinal victory Saturday was Garr's 200th as Rye's head coach (he has 236, including Westlake).

The last win was one of the most satisfying, because Maloney and Garr instituted a plan to stop elite Hudson Falls tailback Joe McMurry, who entered the game with nearly 2,500 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns this season. Rye's kids then emphatically executed it, pounding McMurry and limiting him to 14 first-half yards in a 34-7 victory.

"That just shows how much time Coach Maloney puts into it, and Coach Garr," senior Kyle Ramalho, one of the key McMurry stoppers, said. "They really do come through a lot. If it wasn't for them, this program wouldn't be anywhere near as good or nearly as successful as it's been."

Maloney doesn't want the credit, or if he gets it, he wants it shared with Garr and assistant Mike Bruno, and the kids. He said it was one of the most "rewarding" halves of football he's ever seen at Rye.

"It goes back to one of the philosophies that we believe in, and I'm really a stickler for it, and that is: If you have a defensive alignment that aligns itself correctly, you can play aggressively," Maloney said. "One of the things we really adhere to is: know rotations, know where to line up, know who to key on; and once we do that, we can unleash the force. When you're tentative, you're going to lose."

They preach preparation, sometimes in a loud voice. Garr can be emotional, to say the least, and so can Maloney, who allowed that they get under each other's skin sometimes. But they tend to balance each other.

"He allows me to yell and get emotional sometimes, and he says, 'OK, you said it, now that's enough,' " Garr said. "He wants what's best for these kids, and that's what we want together.

"He's the heart and soul of all my years here, and he makes me continue to appreciate this game. And he's my best friend. He's a special guy."

Garr remembers halftime in a game at Harrison when the Garnets went into a tiny room. Maloney was annoyed and he went to slap his hand, for emphasis, on the chalkboard. He slipped and ended up injuring his elbow. Garr cracks up now thinking about that.

"He's very enthusiastic, high-energy," said senior Pat O'Callaghan, Maloney's defensive quarterback. "There isn't a day goes by when he isn't yelling at someone. But it's generally very instructive stuff that helps us in the long run.

"We kind of joke; sometimes we compare (Garr and Maloney) to a married couple because they go back and forth bickering about defensive schemes. But they're both very intelligent and they come up with great schemes that make us win."

Ramalho added, "They have big debates and we have a blast, because they're always making fun of each other. It's funny. They're like two high school kids out here."

When Maloney was a high school kid, he was Rye's undefeated quarterback. And he was the holder when Bob Marx kicked a field goal to famously beat Harrison, 3-0, in 1970.

"They're a Rye family," Garr said, noting that Maloney's brothers Mike and Chris also played for the Garnets.

"If you're his friend, you're his friend forever. He puts up with a lot of my antics and shenanigans, and I don't think anybody else would. But he's very loyal and true and he's going to be there for you, regardless. The good times are easy, but the tough times, he's there, and we've been there for each other."

Maloney said he and Garr sweat the losses - only three of them in the last six years - more than they enjoy the wins (70 in that span). Maloney thinks it was a 2003 playoff victory over Harrison that kick-started this run.

"We've had some close ones while we've been on this streak," he said. "We pretty much had our way with them during the regular season (a 21-7 win), and they had a really fine team. We were down 15-7 in the early part of the fourth quarter and came back and won 22-15. You know, if not for that game and that great comeback ... we're knocked out. There's no Syracuse, there's no roll. You don't start to build that momentum. So who knows what would have happened?"

Maloney, a Holy Cross grad who works in financial services for Ameriprise, which affords him to bend his schedule around Rye football, joked that his football pay is "up to $1.11 an hour this year."

He's not in it for the money, or even for the wins.

"Rye High School varsity football has afforded me the opportunity to meet many, many, many great people, both here in Rye and around the county. And if not for Rye football, I sincerely doubt that my paths would have crossed with a good number of those people," Maloney said. "So for that very good reason alone, coaching football at Rye has been one of the highlights of the life that I've led."

So how does this Rye team stack up?

"I'll have to let you know Sunday at about 8," he said.

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