MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

January 23, 2014

Much diligence due in football coach search

Muskogee Public Schools administration has plenty on its athletic plate with two major spots to fill in these parts.

For reasons of program stability, the football head coach job is primary. You don’t want to dawdle into the spring with no one in place, not with spring football and summer team camps and, in all likelihood, some staff positions to plug.

The AD is less pressing with coaches in place. People on board now can pay the bills and meet budget requests, which the district’s top two administrators are doing, but ideally, an AD’s philosophy would need some time to mesh with those underneath him, none of which he had anything to do with hiring.

Why the job wasn’t deemed sufficiently posted is beside the point now. It happened, and it put that process further behind than it should have been. Of course, when the vacancy occurred the day Bobby Jefferson retired, no one knew what was going to come down the pike with football, which puts it all in a different light.

If there’s someone among the 10 or more that fits the administration’s desire an evaluator of coaches — and, I say, a marketing savvy that can be used to promote all sports — then there’s no sense in waiting.

If not, well, the new AD’s handprint on the program will be nonexistent in the most important hire he can make, simply because of football’s connection to the soul of this town and its place as a sport that more so than any other, pays for itself at the gate.

Superintendent Mike Garde is right when he says having an AD’s input on the football coach’s hiring is the ideal situation. But it became less than ideal by not getting it out there early enough. Whether the football situation was known — Josh Blankenship says he got an offer to become a part of the University of Tulsa’s staff on Thanksgiving — planning should be with a full understanding of all possible what-ifs.

Much more haste should be made with football, but diligent haste.

There is energized sentiment to stay within the current staff. One of the current board members has affirmed David Heath on some social media posts by members of the community urging that the Roughers defensive coordinator under the past two head coaches get his shot. When Blankenship  was hired, those applying from within the staff, which included Heath, never seemed to have enough support because of some negative dynamics surrounding the previous head coach. In other words, if you ask a head coach to leave, you’re not likely to hire a top assistant on his staff.

That isn’t as much the case now, and that could mean the ones who should be concerned about their chances are outsiders. To some that may seem strange because the program the past three years is 8-21. The top two left in rank, Heath and offensive coordinator/line coach Jason Medrano, were part of that group. But they also were part of two semifinal trips with the previous coach.

On the outside are some names that are exceptionally qualified, some perhaps so for the distinctives of this community in contrast with a Broken Arrow, Union or Jenks. There’s some names that are out there that would rekindle some lost enthusiasm for the program.

Bottom line, if those of you assembling to evaluate and hire — Garde set a target date of Feb. 18 and the committee will be finalized sometime next week — have your heart set on someone already here, then no time of an outside candidate should be wasted. It’d be just as dishonest as it was to courtesy interview those you had no intention of hiring last time.

Don’t interpret this to say that an inside hire isn’t the way to go — I think a lot of Heath personally among the coaches I know, and a lot of the better players who have come out of this program are being quite vocal in his behalf.

But the process in getting to that conclusion isn’t theirs. It’s yours. And it should be forthright and thorough. To not do so would be an injustice to whoever is selected for what looks like a prime opportunity. Numbers are up, talent is up and the smaller 6As don’t have Union and Jenks around anymore.

Without an AD around, his or her name won’t be signed off on the hire.

Yours will.

With the blows this area of the district has absorbed over the last year, this is also your marketing pitch to the commuynity. Do it right.

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