Larry Morrissey

Larry Morrissey won 126 games as the football coach at Omaha Westside from 1985-2002.

Larry Morrissey possessed the ability to care and connect with Omaha Westside students, beyond athletes.

“He was the epitome of a coach and a teacher because he cared about people,” Westside graduate DJ Rezac said. “Someone not in football would say, ‘I love Mr. Morrissey,’ and when I’d ask why, it’d be like, ‘Well, he was my zoology teacher.’

“He could connect with kids. He could care and could connect with them. Larry was Westside.”

Morrissey, 76, died Saturday. His wife, Mary, said he was diagnosed in March with cancer in the neck, with the disease spreading to other parts of the body.

A funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church, 11802 Pacific St.

Morrissey taught in District 66 for 37 years, the last 26 years at Westside as a science teacher. He was the Warriors’ football coach from 1985 to 2002, the longest tenure in school history, compiling a 126-54 career record. His teams went to the state playoffs 15 of 18 years. He entered the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2014.

Two of his assistants followed him as coach, first Marty Kauffman and currently Brent Froendt.

Another longtime assistant, Mark Stegman, recalled the friendship Morrissey made with Stegman’s family.

“For me, it’s remembering mostly the personal stuff, how he helped me, my family and kids, like the coaching parties where he’d interact with them,” Stegman said. “He was just such a great teacher at the school and it came across in terms of coaching.

“Coaching is teaching and he was a great coach in all areas. He did a great job of keeping track of people when they were at Westside and when they were done playing. He was still mentoring.”

Morrissey was a 1960 graduate of Tecumseh High, then graduated in 1965 from Peru State. His first two years in education were at Loup City Central Catholic. When the school closed, he went to District 66’s old Valley View Junior High and taught there 10 years before coming to Westside.

After being an assistant to Don Johnson, Dan Young (on two undefeated state championship teams) and Roger Herring, Morrissey became coach in 1985, when Herring moved into school administration.

Before the 2000 season, Morrissey battled a viral infection that affected his heart. But he stayed on the sideline for three more seasons before retiring at age 60.

“It’s sort of like the circus,” Morrissey said then. “Once you get the sawdust in your blood, it’s hard to get it out. I just have to be careful. What would I be doing if I walked away? As far as I can see, this is what I want to do, and it’s something I still enjoy doing.”

In 1989 he was an assistant for the Nebraska Shrine Bowl and the head coach four years later.

Rezac, an Omaha businessman, was on that 1989 Shrine team.

“My teammates were so envious. They’d tell me they wished their high school coach was like that,” he said. “Omigosh, it was so cool that he was my coach.”

Rezac also remembers what it was like on the sideline between Morrissey and the late Tom Hall, Westside’s longtime basketball coach and football defensive coordinator. Morrissey was one of Hall’s assistants, too.

“Larry and I laughed so much about his relationship with Tom,” Rezac said. “They’d argue and disagree, but they were their closest confidants and best friends.”

Morrissey is survived by his wife, son Vinny and a brother, Kenneth. Visitation with the family will be at St. Robert from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday with a vigil service at 7:30 p.m. Memorials are suggested to the Lawrence L. “Coach” Morrissey Scholarship Fund, 1101 S. 90th St., Omaha, NE 68124.

The high school football season starts this week.

“Larry will have a good seat. He’ll watch ’em all,” Stegman said.

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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