Michael Brennan, the towering, silver-maned president of Santa Ana Mater Dei High, is known for his warm embraces, especially towards those he’s fond of. Lately, the school’s fresh-faced football coach, Frank McManus, has been on the receiving end of quite a few of these warm hugs.
McManus is the talk of the town, earning high praise from all corners. When Brennan announced McManus as the successor to the retiring Bruce Rollinson last month, the room erupted into a standing ovation from the players.
While Brennan lightheartedly attributes his decision to McManus’ fiery red hair and robust Irish heritage, the truth lies deeper. Despite McManus’ lack of head coaching experience, Brennan firmly believes that the 47-year-old is the ideal candidate to step into Rollinson’s shoes.
“I believe Mater Dei is going to go from good to great,” Brennan said.
For seven years, McManus coached Mater Dei’s defensive backs, following a stint as a freshman and junior varsity coach for nine years. His diverse background includes roles in banking administration and the aerospace industry. Recently, he pivoted to education, earning his teaching credential. Now, he’s prepared to lead a program renowned for producing three Heisman Trophy winners.
“It’s a new era of football,” McManus said Thursday during an interview in Brennan’s office.
Brennan Welcome Bruce Rollinson on This Campus
Working with Mater Dei’s defensive coordinator, Eric Johnson, McManus is now assessing the coaching staff for potential returnees. Rollinson, still on campus until June 30, is mentoring and sharing invaluable insights. His future role in the program is yet to be decided.
“Bruce Rollinson is always going to be welcome on this campus,” Brennan said. “He’ll know when to ride into the sunset. We’ll support him in his journey.”
Rollinson’s remarkable 34-year tenure is paving his way to the Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, the past two seasons brought challenges to him and the program due to a lawsuit filed in November 2021. The lawsuit, which accused the program of hazing, was dismissed last month, providing some relief.
Regarding the decision not to disclose a safety assessment report on the athletic program, recently completed, Brennan, who assumed the role in January 2022, confidently stated, “It’s straightforward. Mater Dei is a safe school. It always has been and will remain so.”
With a fresh perspective, the Monarchs are embarking on a new chapter under the leadership of McManus. A perfect match for the coach-teacher-mentor role sought by Brennan.
“He’s raring to go,” Brennan confirmed, emphasizing McManus’ readiness.
Amidst a rigorous selection process, McManus emerged victorious, not only as a football coach but also as a true embodiment of Mater Dei’s principles and values.
“I started in the youth leagues with my older sons and fell in love with coaching,” McManus said.
With 15 years as principal at Anaheim Servite, Brennan emphasized that while winning games is valued. The school’s utmost focus is on nurturing well-rounded students and individuals of high character.
“Frank loves the kids, and because they know that, he can discipline them and stay on top of them and say things to them in a way so that they become the people they’re supposed to be,” Brennan said.
McManus will inherit a talent-laden team that is expected to be ranked No. 1 in the Southland in the fall, led by four-year starter Elijah Brown at quarterback.