Monaco Fired Up for Pima Challenge ; 'Greatest Job' a Reward for Battle-Tested Coach, but Challenges Await

By Rosenblatt, Zack | AZ Daily Star, August 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

Monaco Fired Up for Pima Challenge ; 'Greatest Job' a Reward for Battle-Tested Coach, but Challenges Await


Rosenblatt, Zack, AZ Daily Star


He raises his voice, uses his hands for emphasis.

One hand, one finger pointing.

He slaps the desk in front of him with both hands.

His eyes widen, his mouth opens, and he chuckles.

Jim Monaco is passionate about Pima College football. He's passionate about everything, really.

Monaco, 54, is a short, muscular bundle of energy, his Boston accent dripping enthusiasm, selflessness and joy. He yells on the football field. There is a curse word or two thrown in, sure, but it all serves a purpose.

Monaco has coached at Catalina High School -- and Sahuaro, Tucson High, and Desert View, too. Before that, he spent 20 years as a cop.

He says his job as Pima's head football coach is his best, and favorite, one.

"I'm so grateful," Monaco said. "I don't want to go anywhere else. I hope I do a good enough job as a coach, and a man, that they want to keep me, because I want to be here. I want to keep doing this. I'm gonna do whatever I can for the college, work as hard as I can for the kids."

Forget that Pima has long been considered the dregs of junior college football in the state of Arizona, at one time losing 29 straight games.

Monaco believes the Aztecs deserve a chance. Come to think of it, he does, too.

"I'm blessed," he said. "This is the greatest job I've ever had."

WORKING-CLASS ROOTS

Lynn, Massachusetts, has been a hub for tanning and shoemaking since the United States were 13 colonies. Local cobblers fashioned the boots worn by Continental soldiers in the Revolutionary War. The town's official seal still features a boot.

Monaco grew up there, one of three children born to a working- class barber. When the business of his father, also named Jim, faltered -- "It was the '60s, when nobody was getting their hair cut," Monaco said -- he became a janitor. Jim Monaco, the first, loved it.

"He wore a shirt and tie to work every day," Monaco said, "and just always took pride in what he did."

As Jim Monaco grew up, he fell in love with the game of football. He played center at New Haven University before a horrific injury ended any pro dreams he harbored.

"I blew my knee apart, and my ankle apart, and they took my hip out and put it down there," Monaco said.

At 20, Jim Monaco moved to Houston and became a police officer in the city's 5th District. Monaco said he would've stayed home, but Boston's police department wasn't hiring.

This was no desk job. In a two-year span, Monaco said he got into numerous fights and was shot at a handful of times.

Monaco was even stabbed in the chest with an ice pick.

"Tough place," he said, laughing.

Boston soon called, and Monaco moved home. He moved to Tucson in 1990, shortly after his first son was born, and joined the Tucson Police Department. He served 12 years here.

Policing may have been his passion, but football was never far behind. Monaco joined Chuck McCollum's Catalina High School staff, where he made an instant impression.

Dan Linden, a former Catalina player who now serves as Pima's offensive line coach, still remembers his first encounter with Monaco. …

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