, Muskogee, OK


October 11, 2012

COLUMN: Old coach will cruise a bit further south tonight

— It’s a good thing Matt Hennesy doesn’t drive the bus.

There might be, just out of muscle memory, be a wrong turn on the way to the south edge of town tonight.

The former Muskogee High head coach will be back tonight, just not at Indian Bowl. Hennesy’s Locust Grove Pirates will wind up at Hilldale’s Hornet Field for a District 3A-7 battle.

It’s different, Hennesy told us earlier this week, after taking a year to refocus and re-map his coaching career.

He’s coaching junior high for one thing. Class 6A coaches didn’t do that.

It seems forever ago since Hennesy, who came in as Ron Lancaster’s defensive coordinator in 2003, led MHS to two state semifinal appearances as head coach following the one semifinal appearance under Lancaster.

Hard times hit the program the next couple of years and it’s still trying to find its former footing under Josh Blankenship. Those hard times included two first-round playoff exits and one year, missing it altogether. It included spankings of 70-13 at Broken Arrow and 70-3 at Norman in 2010.

It gave some people who were perturbed at some off-the-field  issues a reason to show him the door.

Hennesy has said he was never told of specifics as to his dismissal, though there was some flak over off-the-field issues. There was incident involving  leaving the scene of an accident when a child on a bike injured himself when pedaling into his parked truck in the coaches parking lot at Indian Bowl.

A nurse on the spot wasn’t enough. Getting an officer, even a campus officer who was in the vicinity, would have saved him from some scrutiny. In that case, the former defensive coordinator should have played straight defense, as in cover 11, leave no doubt. Instead, he got blindsided on the blitz and in effect, called the wrong play. It cost him some cash.

Hennesy also went through a divorce here. When an attempt by his players to appeal the decision was heard but not responded to by the school board who approved his dismissal, as the crowd cleared outside, one man, I never knew his name, waited for a one-on-one with me. He mentioned how divorced people aren’t good role models for our children. My response was OK, let’s begin filling about half the teaching vacancies you’ll have, if you apply the modern-day average divorce rate.

Just plain silly. When would the scrutiny stop? The janitors?

Seventy-five percent of the time, I thought his coaching was solid, probably better than my scribbling average. He had the advantage of a wave of talent over those three years that hasn’t hit shore since.

Of that 25 percent, I will forever stand opposed to playing Rell Lewis as a kick returner against Jenks in 2006. Lewis got hit at the knees — some to this day swear it was a cheap shot — and just like OU with Adrian Peterson a few years back, it’s just plain risky to roll your dice on returns, limited as they are, at the expense of other touches. To me, losing Lewis meant falling one step short of the finals.

Hennesy was also a little too much of a trick-play guy than I’d prefer — we never agreed that was the correct terminology, so we’ll call it gadgets.

We had our disagreements and the relationship wasn’t always smooth. But here’s something I appreciated about him: There was no pretension. He was what he was, take him or leave him, like him or otherwise.

He was the same all along, including the moment he moved from Lancaster’s assistant to Lancaster’s replacement. The only thing that did change was the tune after the losses piled up.

“Straight talking, outspoken gut-wrenchingly honest,” wrote one of the scribes now following him at Locust Grove when meeting him last spring.

In word and action, that was probably to his detriment here. But Hennesy’s moved on and so has Muskogee.

Maybe everyone involved has had a little self-discovery.

You’ll see that bus cruising down Smith-Ferry Road tonight.

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