The long nights first started as a high school coach in Central Islip.

Sharon O’Leary was surprised by the Sundays spent in the basement watching film with other coaches. “No, dad is busy,” she would tell the kids, who were eager to barrel downstairs.

Both Sharon and George were physical education majors at the University of New Hampshire, where they met. Sharon expected her husband to work a normal teacher’s hours. What she got was a coach whose spent his time buried in an ever-growing library of football books and on weekend trips to coaching clinics.

 “The ones that aren’t gone, they’re not that successful,” Sharon said in June, relaxing in a beach chair a few hundred yards from a rental home in Ponce Inlet, one of the few distractions far enough from the office to pull her husband away for a couple days.

O’Leary’s youngest brother, Tom, remembers going to his brother’s house on beautiful spring afternoons and finding George in the basement, watching film on eight millimeter. On other nights, Tom would go to Central Islip to shoot hoops because George kept the gym open all night for his football and lacrosse players to come lift weights.

“They introduced the first weight machines, nobody else had those universal weight machines then,” Tom O’Leary recalled. “When it wasn’t football season he still had that weight room open. He kept that open on his own dime.”

That work ethic carried over to the college level, where Ralph Friedgen encountered O’Leary as they recruited New York. O’Leary had a bigger budget, and he would invite Friedgen to meals. The two coaches would joke that they had just bad-mouthed each other in a recruit’s kitchen, and now were sitting down to eat together.

When they were on the same staff at Georgia Tech under Bobby Ross, the expectation was long days and nights spent in the office. The two carpooled together, driving in at 5 a.m. and not leaving until well past 11 p.m.

“I think that’s the way we all were,” Friedgen said. “That’s what the job should be.”

O’Leary has said he will retire when he comes to work for two days in a row and doesn’t like it. But that hasn’t happened, not once since O’Leary started at Central Islip, when those Sundays were spent in the basement watching eight millimeter film.

“ I thoroughly enjoy just coming in and closing my door and watching other people’s games and seeing what people are doing,” O’Leary said. “I’m very inquisitive with that, as far as how people are attacking, how people are stopping things. It’s never over.”

E-mail Paul Tenorio at ptenorio@orlandosentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @OSKnights.