Pat O'Hara, a three-time ArenaBowl champion who will be entering his 15th season of involvement with the Arena Football League, has been hired as the head coach of the Los Angeles Avengers, owner and chief executive officer Casey Wasserman announced today.
The fourth head coach in Avengers history, O'Hara agreed to a three-year deal with an option for a fourth season, which would be the 2012 AFL campaign. He succeeds Ed Hodgkiss, who was relieved of his duties on June 24, after seven seasons in charge.
One of the most successful quarterbacks in AFL history before entering the coaching ranks, O'Hara comes to Los Angeles after three seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Storm (2005, 2007-08).
"As we prepare to celebrate our 10th season in the AFL, we couldn't be more excited about having Pat O'Hara onboard as our new head coach," Wasserman said. "The leadership that Pat has displayed as both a quarterback and coach will serve him well in his new position. His high level of success in this league speaks for itself. We're also extremely confident in Pat's ability to recognize and develop players who have the right skill sets to excel in our game."
As the offensive coordinator of the Storm, O'Hara played a vital role in the development of quarterbacks Shane Stafford and Brett Dietz. In 2005, Stafford increased his production considerably, throwing for 4,522 yards and 83 touchdowns, which was up from 3,418 yards and 67 scores in 2004. Midway through the 2007 season, when a rash of season-ending injuries struck Tampa Bay's quarterback position, O'Hara began tutoring Dietz. At the end of the season, after only nine games of action, Dietz earned AFL Co-Rookie of the Year honors, completing 65.9 percent of his passes (an AFL rookie record) for 2,395 yards and 47 touchdowns. In addition, only one first-year player in league history has had a higher quarterback rating than Dietz's 119.3 in 2007.
"We took our time during this process and carefully examined numerous options," Avenger president Matt Wikstrom said. "In the end, Pat O'Hara was the best fit for our franchise and its new direction. In addition to the expertise he has gathered during his 15 years in the AFL, Pat has some unique intangibles that make him special. Under his leadership, we look forward to providing our fans with the kind of winning tradition that they deserve."
O'Hara played 14 seasons of professional football, including two in the National Football League. He is one of only 12 players in AFL history to play in 100 or more games. Over the course of his 11 seasons as an AFL quarterback, O'Hara was 988-of-1,752 for 13,413 yards and 231 touchdowns and played in five ArenaBowls.
After being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 10th round of the 1991 NFL Draft (260th overall selection), he spent 11 weeks on the developmental squad before being placed on the active roster for the remainder of the season.
In 1992, the Buccaneers allocated O'Hara to the Ohio Glory of the World League of American Football (the predecessor of NFL Europe). He was subsequently signed by the San Diego Chargers as a Plan B free agent and served as the team's third-string quarterback in 1992. Later, O'Hara attended training camp with the Chargers in 1993 and Washington Redskins in 1994.
He transitioned to the AFL in 1995, signing with the Orlando Predators. Over the course of his six seasons in Orlando, O'Hara won ArenaBowl championships in 1998 and 2000, and rewrote the Predators record book, completing 682-of-1,196 for 9,325 yards and 166 touchdowns.
Prior to the 2001 season, O'Hara signed a free agent contract with the Toronto Phantoms, who were preparing for their first year in the AFL. He played two seasons in Toronto before signing with the Tampa Bay Storm prior to the 2003 campaign.
In that first season with the Storm, O'Hara came off the bench in ArenaBowl XVII to lead Tampa Bay to a 43-29 victory over the Arizona Rattlers. After playing another season with the Storm, he began his professional football coaching career in 2005 as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator.
O'Hara returned to the field in 2006 as the Storm's backup quarterback.
In 2007, he rejoined the coaching fraternity for good, returning to his role as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator. Following that season, O'Hara was a finalist for head coaching positions with the Arizona Rattlers and Grand Rapids Rampage.
O'Hara got his first taste of coaching at Point Loma (Calif.) High School in 1996, working with the quarterbacks as a volunteer assistant. Later, he spent three seasons (1998-2000) as an assistant coach at New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) High School and three seasons (2001-03) as the offensive coordinator at Olympia High School (Orlando, Fla.).
More recently, O'Hara's offseasons have included consulting work, coordinating and choreographing football action scenes in such major motion pictures as "The Longest Yard," "Invincible," "We Are Marshall" and "The Game Plan." He also has coached actors such as Adam Sandler, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, on the nuances and finer points of football. In addition, O'Hara himself has appeared in several movies, including parts in "The Waterboy" and "Any Given Sunday."
O'Hara played football at the University of Southern California. As a sophomore in 1988, he backed up Rodney Peete, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting that season. O'Hara was expected to be the Trojans' starting quarterback in 1989, but suffered two torn ligaments in his right knee and a fractured right tibia in practice 10 days before the season opener. The injuries required a pair of surgeries, including one to graft bone from his hip. O'Hara was hospitalized for three weeks, lost 35 pounds during that time and received a get-well letter from former President Ronald Reagan. As a senior in 1990, O'Hara backed up Todd Marinovich, who would go on to be an NFL first-round draft choice and play with the Avengers for two seasons (2000-01).
O'Hara graduated from USC with a degree in public administration in 1991.
Born in Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 1968, O'Hara grew up in Santa Monica, Calif. While attending Santa Monica High School, he was an all-league selection in football and baseball (centerfield). As a senior in 1985, he was 127-of-224 for 1,711 yards and 21 touchdowns to earn "Bay League Player of the Year" honors and selection to the Long Beach Press-Telegram's prestigious "Best in the West" squad. As a junior in 1984, O'Hara completed 118-of-222 for 1,976 yards and 23 scores, while leading the Vikings to the Bay League title and earning "Westside Back of the Year" recognition from the Los Angeles Times.
He and his wife, Billie, have two sons, Tyler (8) and Trace (6).