Holy Spirit hires Russo in quick coaching change
The coaching wheel spun quickly on Friday at Holy Spirit High School. Before 8 a.m., John Iannucci announced his resignation as football coach, citing "minor" health issues.
The coaching wheel spun quickly on Friday at Holy Spirit High School.
Before 8 a.m., John Iannucci announced his resignation as football coach, citing "minor" health issues.
By noon, A.J. Russo had been named as the Spartans' new football coach.
"I'm extremely excited," said Russo, a 1981 Holy Spirit graduate who played football for the Spartans and then at Gettysburg College.
Russo, a longtime youth football coach with the Ventnor Pirates, was hired as Holy Spirit's Information Technology chief in the summer upon his retirement after 25 years in the field for Atlantic County.
Russo said he plans to have the Spartans play "power football" with a "shotgun, double-wing" offense that he said will be similar to the scheme run at Auburn University.
Holy Spirit athletic director Jay Connell said Russo will be a "great fit" for the Spartans.
"We need to get the alumni back out," Connell said. "They've been missing the last couple of years."
Iannucci led Holy Spirit to three consecutive state championship games. His first team won the Non-Public 2 state title in 2012.
Iannucci was 24-12 in three seasons at the Absecon school. Holy Spirit started last season 0-3 and 1-4 but rallied to advance to the Non-Public 2 title game, losing to DePaul Catholic.
Along the way, the Spartans stunned top-seeded and undefeated Holy Cross by a 54-36 score on Nov. 21. Holy Spirit finished the season 5-7.
"This past year, due to a number of minor ailments, I was forced to coach in extreme pain," Iannucci said in a statement. "Individually, none of these ailments are serious. The cumulative effect, though, was debilitating.
"Each of these ailments needs to be looked at so I can continue my career as a football coach, which I intend to do."
Iannucci praised Holy Spirit's students.
"I have really enjoyed the students and athletes at Holy Spirit," Iannucci said. "They were the reason I came here and they did not disappoint me. They are my sole regret in leaving.
"The players and the players alone were the reason we were able to go to three straight state finals."
Iannucci's first team in 2012 went 8-4 and won the Non-Public 2 title with a 30-6 victory over Immaculata. His 2013 team went 11-1, losing its final game to DePaul Catholic in the Non-Public 2 title game.
"I want to coach," Iannucci said in a telephone interview. "Hopefully, I'll be back on the sideline again next season."