As teacher and coach, Fairfield Prep’s Vin O’Hara follows ‘mentor’ Matt Sather

The Fairfield Prep hockey team will have a new coach in Vin O’Hara.

The Fairfield Prep hockey team will have a new coach in Vin O’Hara.

Pete Paguaga /Hearst Connecticut Media

Vin O’Hara got out of school in 2007, and hey, remember that economy?

“I was doing research at a university, and you know how much that pays,” O’Hara said. “I started substitute teaching, and I felt a calling to it.”

Tours at the Southport School and Unquowa School in Fairfield ultimately led him back to his high school alma mater, Fairfield Prep, and on Monday, the Jesuits named him the fifth hockey coach in school history.

“I really always felt eventually I would end up back here at Prep,” O’Hara said. “I think it’s the best decision I made.”

O’Hara graduated from Fairfield Prep in 2001, and in his last two seasons as a Jesuits defenseman, the team won the CIAC Division I championship. Those happened to be the first two full seasons of his predecessor behind the bench at Wonderland, Matt Sather, who retired from the head coaching job last month.

“In truth, I’ve been following him ever since,” O’Hara said. “I’m an English teacher, a social studies teacher, a coach. I teach across the hall from him. He’s a great mentor. I look up to him as a friend, as a coach and as a man.”

Sather remembered O’Hara as a tough player, not just physically but in his resilience. He wasn’t the big-name-type defenseman, but he played his role well, and he had to work hard in the classroom and on the ice.

“It allows him a different perspective to all the different guys we get,” Sather said, “to teach how to work hard and how to persevere.”

O’Hara joined the Fairfield Prep coaching staff in 2014. He’d been coaching the junior varsity. When Sather retired, he felt he could further the legacy of a coaching staff that had won 11 state titles. He says he feels blessed that the school chose him to do it.

“I think it’s a great pick,” Sather said. “I think there’s something special about having a coach in the building with the kids. It creates a relationship that’s unique, (seeing a coach as) not just a coach, but as a professional, a teacher, a husband, a father.”

Sather called O’Hara “the creative force behind the JV team for a while,” and said he’ll continue the culture that has made the Jesuits what they are while adding “a modern spin, which is good.”

As a defenseman, O’Hara said, he believes success comes from the defensive end of the ice.

“I learned how to be a player under Matt Sather. I learned how to be a coach under Matt Sather,” O’Hara said. “I’m sure there are many similarities, but as far as coaching style, it starts at the back end.

“I believe in a north-south game, playing to speed, not much different, but my idea of good hockey starts with sound defense.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp