Michael Corona wanted to return to familiar surroundings, while St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute coveted a football coach experienced in building up a program.
Seems like an ideal marriage, which means the search is over for the next head coach of the Marauders.
St. Joe’s Athletic Director Brian Anken confirmed Corona's hire Wednesday morning after informing the team of the school’s choice.
Corona, a University at Buffalo graduate, Rochester native and father of three, becomes just the sixth man since 1960 to hold the title of head coach for St. Joe’s, one of Western New York’s and the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association’s signature programs.
Corona, who played football and wrestled at UB before graduating in 2004, comes to the Marauders after five seasons as head coach of St. Joseph’s By the Sea of Staten Island, where he helped turnaround a struggling program. Corona, 38, takes over for Derek Landri after he and St. Joe’s parted ways after four seasons.
"I'm beyond excited to join St. Joe's,” Corona said. “The football program has a lot of potential and the alumni base is large and incredibly supportive. I can't wait to get started building up both."
Corona guided the Vikings to two winning seasons and a 20-25 record during his tenure, including an 8-2 mark last fall and semifinal appearance in the New York City Catholic High School League’s Conference’s AA-2 playoffs.
That conference is a notch below AAA, which crowns the downstate champ that faces the Monsignor Martin large schools champion each year for the New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association title.
Corona enjoyed working at St. Joseph’s By the Sea, but said the desire to move closer to home (he still has family in Rochester) and other intangibles proved to be too good to pass up.
“I’ve always loved Buffalo, said Corona, a Greece-Athena graduate. “We (he and his wife Sara) got married in Buffalo. A lot of our friends and family live (in the area).”
Though Corona has only five seasons experience running the show, he's well-traveled and experienced at the scholastic and Division II college levels. Corona received his introduction to coaching during his final year at UB from late Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame member and Sweet Home legend John Faller, serving as a program assistant with the modified team that fall while transitioning from athlete into coach.
“It was my first-time coaching,” said Corona, who took mental notes on how Faller organized practices and how he approached kids. “I didn’t know what kind of a legend John Faller was until after I started coaching in college. I really enjoyed it.”
Before heading to Staten Island, Corona was an assistant coach for three years at Bishop O'Connell in Arlington, Va. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at the college level for six years – including two seasons at Division II Findlay in Ohio and a season at Division II Pace University. He assisted and served as strength and conditioning coach at West Los Angeles College in California.
Corona inherited a program at St. Joseph’s By the Sea that had not had a winning season since 2012. According to a Spectrum 1 New York City report, the CHSAA moved the Vikings out of its top conference before Corona’s hire. Corona’s first winning season with the team was a 5-4 mark in 2016.
More than 40 coaches inquired about the job with 26 being interviewed by phone and eight on campus, according to Anken.
"For us, we thought he was the perfect fit," Anken said. "Our committee identified early in the process someone with significant coaching experience and head coaching experience. We thought, between head coaching experience and a proven recruiter and someone who has had some success in building a program, were really important keys for us."
In addition to coaching football, Corona has been hired as an alumni engagement officer by St. Joe's.
Corona takes over a Marauders program that posted a 6-4 record last season and has gone 22-21 since 2016. St. Joe’s hasn’t won the Monsignor Martin playoff title since 2010.
Corona figures to face some challenges in his first season but the first figures to be depth, as a Marauders program with 51 players loses 17 to graduation in the spring. Four years ago, the program, had an estimated 110 players in the fold.
“I can tell you it’s a concern for everybody,” Anken said last month of the number of players at the school. “I’m not going to sit and tell you, you have to have a certain number to do this or that. When you look at it, there are things on at both ends of the coin. We’re far better off than we were (four years ago), but there are some things that haven’t developed as we would have liked.”
Corona played a role in building program participation numbers at St. Joseph's By the Sea (80 to 142) and Bishop O'Connell (53 to 122), where he served as offensive coordinator, according to Anken.
“You come in and take care of the kids in the building,” Corona said. “Create a culture as you do that, try to find good fits for program. If you treat people well, word gets out.”
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Michael Corona’s year-by-year record at St. Joseph’s By the Sea
- 2015: 3-6
- 2016: 5-4
- 2017: 3-6
- 2018: 1-7
- 2019: 8-2