As expected when it leaked last week, Hilldale is in the market for a head football coach.
Greg Werner was approved by the Poteau School Board in a meeting there Monday, returning him to the school he coached from 2012-14, reaching the state championship in 2013. In his only season at Hilldale, he was 9-3 with a quarterfinal loss to Tuttle.’
Werner, who left Poteau to go to Van Buren, Ark., for three seasons prior to his arrival at Hilldale, will reportedly receive a $15,000 raise and at Poteau will have a staff of 10 high school-level assistants, one a lay assistant. He has a mother who lives in the area too.
When word leaked beginning Thursday night of the move, he was forced to text his kids about it with Hilldale out of school due to a flu epidemic Friday, he had to wait to talk to them in person Monday before leaving for the meeting in Poteau.
“I hate it happened that way when it got out (Friday). Hilldale was good to me, good kids, good people,” Werner said. “I always thought I’d retire at Poteau and when Van Buren called I kind of chased the money, which is not always the right thing to do. But for me this was the right thing to do.”
Hilldale athletic director Chad Kirkhart, who will head a search team including high school principal Josh Nixon and middle school principal Darren Riddle, has been down this road before. He was part of the process when he initially stepped down as the Hornets coach in 2014 before deciding to remain as head coach until he stepped down for good after eight seasons last March, about three weeks later than Werner.
“It’s never good timing, but Greg’s done a good job and we wish him and his family the best in Poteau,” Kirkhart said. “But it does give us the chance to get someone in here and in place before spring ball. There’s people that we’ll be interested in, no doubt. Obviously we can’t name names but we’re going to go get the best guy in here that fits what we need and wants to stay here.”
Kirkhart was asked about the gap between what lured Werner away and what Hilldale can offer. Stipends for coaches and other extra-duty assignments are negotiable.
“Obviously we’d love to pay really well but we have a lot of things I think will be enticing,” Kirkhart said. “We’ve been pretty good for a while, we’ve got a good staff here and kids who like to work hard. Coaches know when they come here they have a chance to win football games. We’ve had quite a few district championships and playoff runs. I’m not sure you get that everywhere.”
Hilldale has six assistants at the high school level, a typical number for 4A schools.
“That’s always a perk, to have a big coaching staff,” Werner said. “I’m not one to leverage an offer. I don’t think that’s a character move. I told Chad from the start it was never going to be what he could offer or they could offer. I just don’t think that kind of thing is right.”