It was the middle of August, just a couple weeks before the start of the 2015 football season.
Frank Monica assumed the little discomfort in his chest was something small, perhaps just a little reflux.
Instead, doctors informed the St. Charles Catholic coach that there was blockage in two main arteries to his heart.
If the doctors had taken a closer look, they surely would have discovered something else close to Monica’s heart: a deep love for coaching that wasn’t going to prevent him from pacing the sideline for a 45th season.
“Not a chance,” Monica said with a laugh. “I have a long way to go as far as coaching. I was just upset that I missed two days of practice.”
Just a few days after undergoing surgery that required two stents, the 66-year old Monica was back conducting practice.
Three games into the season, who can blame Monica for not wanting to miss what is shaping up to be a special season for his Comets?
They have been ranked No. 1 in this newspaper’s small school rankings all season long. Through three games, they have allowed just one touchdown, and that didn’t come until the final two minutes of Friday’s 41-7 victory over Vandebilt Catholic. St. Charles shut out the first two teams they played (Thibodaux and Thomas Jefferson) and have outscored its three opponents thus far 108-7.
Friday’s victory was career win No. 231 for Monica, who began coaching when he was 22.
He thought he’d be a pro baseball player until a scout told him he was too short to pursue that dream.
Those closest to him don’t know what he’d be doing if he wasn’t coaching.
“He’d be lost,” his wife, Nancy, said. “He’s obsessed with it.”
And Nancy knew she would have been wasting her time trying to convince her husband to hang up the whistle after his health scare in August. Heck, she couldn’t get him to obey the doctor’s orders and rest for two weeks.
Ty Monica, who serves as his dad’s offensive coordinator, knew it too.
“I guarantee you quitting wasn’t even a figment of his imagination,” Ty said. “I don’t know what he would do if he didn’t have football. He loves every phase of it, from the weightlifting to the spring training to the conditioning to Friday nights.
“I don’t see him giving it up any time soon.”
Frank has passed that love for coaching to both his sons. His younger son, Nick, is head baseball coach and an assistant football coach at Rummel.
And you can call the two daughters coaches, too. Well, sort of. Katie teaches first-graders and Gina is a speech pathologist.
“Coaching is what we grew up knowing,” Ty said. “Every Saturday night we would be at the (Mercedes-Benz) Superdome watching Tulane and during the week we hardly ever saw him. We knew he was there and we knew he was coming home. He was just a hard worker and was doing what he had to do to have some success.”
Monica has had plenty of that in an almost five-decade coaching journey that has included stops at Lutcher, Tulane, Riverside Academy and Jesuit.
He won his state title as an assistant coach at Lutcher in 1975. He also won a state title as Lutcher’s head baseball coach that year.
He won his state football as a head coach in 1978, then won a Louisiana Independent School Association title at Riverside in 1983.
He led St. Charles to a state title in 2011.
With his Comets off to a fast start, could another title be on the way the first weekend in December?
That remains to be seen.
But what is certain is that Monica doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
“This is my hobby and passion,” he said. “I’ll be doing it until the good Lord puts me in the ground.”