A one of a kind coach -- and one of the kindest -- after 38 seasons Chris Andriano retires as Montini Catholic's football coach to work with even younger kids.
"I'm tired, I've had my fill of football. I'm just kind of like at that point now where I'd just like to enjoy my grandkids. They're really the main focus of my existence now," Andriano said Sunday night, shortly after he announced his retirement at Montini's football banquet.
"I've had my time in the sun. It's been a great run, I've enjoyed a lot of great wins and even some of the disappointing losses. It's been an incredible journey and I couldn't have done it without a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players, but my time is done."
It's been the best of times for Montini, which followed Andriano's announcement with the news that 1983 Montini graduate and longtime Broncos defensive coordinator Mike Bukovsky would succeed Andriano as the third head football coach in 51 years at the Lombard school.
"We won't miss a beat with him," said Andriano, turning 65 on Dec. 7.
In 1979 Andriano took over for Jim Kavanaugh, the former athletic director who in 1974 had hired the Millikin University second-team All-America wide receiver as a physical education teacher and freshman football coach. By 1981 Andriano led the Broncos to the first of 28 state playoff appearances, including the last 23 seasons in a row.
Andriano finished with a record of 300-128, the Broncos' first-round playoff win Oct. 28 over St. Ignatius making the 1970 Palatine graduate the ninth 300-game winner in Illinois High School Association football history. From Joliet Catholic and East St. Louis to Sacred Heart-Griffin, Maine South and Loyola -- not to mention former heated rival Driscoll Catholic -- Andriano sought out the state's toughest programs in order to improve.
Andriano's teams won 12 conference championships and six state titles -- in 2004, from 2009-12 and again in 2015. The only head coach to appear in seven straight state championship games, from 2009-15, Andriano also is the only coach to win titles in three classes, from 4A to 6A.
"We won our first state title in 2004 in Class 4A. We just kept wanting to do more. Then when we beat Joliet Catholic (29-28 on a 2-point conversion pass) in 2009, for that state championship, we were heavy underdogs in that game. That's when we kind of took off," Andriano said.
He called former offensive coordinator Lewis Borsellino's 2007 arrival and implementation of a spread passing offense the turning point in the program's recent success.
Like an old-school doctor treating families through generations, Andriano's ability to relate to players had any number of middle-aged Westerkamps and Borsellinos entrusting their own children to "Coach A." This year's team included senior defensive back Don Reilley whose father, Mike, played on Andriano's freshman team in 1974.
Andriano coached his own sons, Broncos quarterbacks Matt, a 1996 graduate, and Scott, a 2002 graduate. Chris and Dee Andriano, married 43 years and living in Aurora, also have a daughter, Lisa, who graduated from Montini in 1999.
Andriano coached a variety of other sports, joining his sons on their wrestling or baseball teams, and coached Broncos boys track for 25 years over three different tenures. In 2004 he was 90 meters from the Class A track title when a 1,600 relay pileup allowed Eureka to pass two fallen runners for the win, pushing Montini into second place.
Andriano's fatherly support touched thousands of boys.
"He taught me that no one can tell me what I can or can't do, only myself. Anything is possible if you put forth the effort and never quit," said Western Michigan-bound tailback Prince Walker. "He helped me become not just a better player, but a better young man, leader and teammate to all and I can't thank him enough for that."
"Even as a 14-year-old kid I could tell this man and this program was special," said Brian Casey, Andriano's quarterback in 2000. In 2015 Casey stepped away from a successful run as Aurora Central Catholic's coach to return as Andriano's quarterbacks coach and the school's alumni relations director.
"As a player he demanded you work hard and you do things the right way," Casey said. "He held players accountable. He could be harder on us players because he took the time to build up a relationship with us. We would run through a wall for him. He cared about every individual on the roster from freshmen through seniors."
Inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001, Andriano was one of three recipients of Montini's Leadership Award at the school's 50th anniversary celebration this June. He received Millikin's Excellence in Life Award in 2015.
"When I look at Coach A, I see a role model that any child would be lucky to have in his or her life," Montini principal Maryann O'Neill said in Sunday's retirement statement.
Andriano is a family man whose mother and avid Broncos fan, Dorothy, lived for 58 years in the same house on -- yes -- Dorothy Drive in Palatine until she passed away on Oct. 13 (father Joseph Andriano died in 1995). Chris Andriano's five grandchildren, ages 3-8, will now get the Coach A treatment.
He'll also get to fish and visit son Scott in Seattle more than once a year. But when football heats up again Andriano will be back to help Bukovsky as perhaps the most overqualified equipment manager in IHSA football history.
"Like I told the kids tonight, I'm still gonna be around," Andriano said. "I'm still gonna be a big supporter, I'm still gonna work with our guys who want to go on to college, I'm still gonna be behind the scenes. You're not gonna see the last of me."