Mike Collodi resigns as Mt. Lebanon football coach after 1 season

Wednesday, December 27, 2023 | 10:23 PM

Less than a year after becoming Mt. Lebanon’s football coach, Mike Collodi is reluctantly stepping down. He resigned Wednesday after one season, largely, he said, because he saw no path to a teaching job in the district.

“When I took the program over, I had a vision of how to run a 6A program,” Collodi said. “Not being in the building or in the district just made it nearly impossible to fulfill that vision.”

Collodi, 41, has taught health and physical education at South Park for 17 years. He accepted the job at Mt. Lebanon last February knowing a teaching job wasn’t part of the deal. But Collodi said he found it challenging in the months since to boost the team’s roster and build the culture he wanted while on campus only in the afternoon and evening.

He emphasized that he had no complaints about the students, their parents or the school overall.

“The parents and the boosters were so supportive,” Collodi said. “The kids worked so hard, they’re so intelligent, and they really bought in. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them, but it just wasn’t the right fit. My vision didn’t align with the vision of the administration, I guess.”

Collodi said he’d recently spoken with school administrators and left with an understanding that a job there “is never going to happen.” One potential disincentive for the school, he said, was that his teaching experience would put him at an elevated step on the salary scale.

“We’re certainly appreciative of the hard work Mike put in and all that he did for our kids and program in the last year,” Mt. Lebanon athletic director John Grogan said. “He made a personal decision that he felt he had to make.”

Grogan said he believed the district had been clear about the job situation from the start.

Collodi noted that many successful big-school teams in the WPIAL have head coaches who also work in the district where they coach. That success surely isn’t a coincidence, he said.

“When you look around at the teams we played, (Gateway’s) Don Holl is in the building, (Canon-McMillan’s) Mike Evans is in the building, (Upper St. Clair’s) Mike Junko is in the building, (Peters Township’s) T.J. Plack is in the building,” Collodi said. “Art Walker and seven assistants are in the building (at North Allegheny). Ryan Linn is in the building at Moon. It makes it really difficult when I don’t have any coaches in the building.”

Mt. Lebanon went 5-6 this season and qualified for the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs.

Collodi was the team’s third coach in six years, following Bob Palko (2019-22) and Mike Melnyk (2012-18). He arrived in Mt. Lebanon last winter after a successful eight-year stint as head coach at Elizabeth Forward, where the Warriors went 56-24, reached the playoffs six times and were WPIAL Class 3A runners-up in 2020.

Collodi said he won’t quickly jump into any other coaching job and instead will spend more time with his wife, Ali, and their 20-month-old son Luca.

“I’ve been coaching for the last 20 years,” Collodi said. “I got done playing in 2003, then I started coaching and I’ve been doing it ever since. … We’ll figure something out (for the future), but right now, I’m going to be a dad and a husband and just relax and see what happens.”

Collodi told his players he was leaving in a video conference call Wednesday night.

“They were pretty upset,” he said. “Some of them were crying on the Zoom call. It does hurt. I’ve only known them since March, but it shows the impact me and my staff had on these kids.”

Grogan said the school will advertise the job vacancy in January and begin the process of finding a replacement.

“The good news is (the decision) was made early enough that we can get to work and find a new head coach who wants to be at Mt. Lebanon long term,” Grogan said.

Collodi said one of the more frustrating limitations of not working in the school was an inability to find athletes already in the building and invite them to practice. He noted that the Blue Devils had fewer than 80 players on the roster this season, which included grades 9-12.

“You want to create a culture, but you can’t really do that if you show up at 3 o’clock,” Collodi said. “It’s hard to get a hand on the grades, the attendance, the discipline. Just knowing and meeting the teachers. Eating lunch with the kids. Recruiting players in the hallways.

“Those are all things you need to do to have a successful program at the 6A level.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.


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