Here it is, the middle of January, the heart of high school’s winter season, and what’s the common question most fans have been asking me?
“Who is going to be the new football coach at Lockport and Lemont?”
Football season ended six weeks ago and the 2014 season doesn’t officially begin for more than 200 days.
No matter. Fans still want their prep pigskin, even if its wrapped in snow and ice.
If you recall, Lockport severed ties with coach Don McKillip, who guided the Porters to a 3-6 mark, just days before Thanksgiving.
At Lemont, longtime coach Eric Michaelsen, coming off a 3-6 season as well, was named principal at the school. So much for the dumb jock theory. There are two ways to look at Lockport and Lemont’s continued coaching vacancies: the respective selection committees have not been overwhelmed by the applicants or, to the contrary, there are so many quality candidates to choose from it’s taken longer than expected to arrive at a consensus to name a new coach.
In both instances, it’s more the latter of the two.
“We had north of 50 applications,” Lockport athletic director Brian Goff said. “We had people with very little experience to seasoned coaches. We pretty much ran the gamut. That’s part of the reason it took so long to start this process.”
Lockport has settled on eight candidates and began the interviewing process Wednesday.
Goff strongly believes the right man for the job is in the final mix.
“I feel real good that one or two of these guys are going to stand out,” he said. “We hope to end the process in the near future and take it to the February [school] board meeting [for approval].”
I will be floored if Lockport doesn’t choose an established coach. Plenty of teaching vacancies and even one or two dean positions reportedly will be available.
A prominent Catholic League coach, who needs no mention, remains the hottest name out there.
Is it just coincidence that Lockport began interviewing candidates just days after entrance exam weekend took place at private schools?
And those rumors of Lockport installing FieldTurf this summer?
“It’s a strong possibility,” Goff said. “There hasn’t been an official decision yet.”
So what’s the deal at Lemont, where Michaelsen built a feared and respected powerhouse?
“The job is still open,” Lemont athletic director John Young said. “We’re moving along. We had about 65 applicants for the position. We have a little less than a dozen in the mix right now. You have to be patient. There’s a lot that goes into hiring a head coach nowadays.”
Mostly, slotting coaches with available teaching positions.
Whoever lands the coveted position, Young made it clear that person will inherit every member of Michaelsen’s staff.
“They’re all staying on,” Young said. “Sometimes nowadays you have to rebuild your whole staff. Not here. We have a very mature, well educated and experience staff. The new coach will be filled in on where we’re at and he’ll fine-tune things for next season.”
As good as Lemont’s staff is, I could very well see how that may have soured more established candidates wanting to bring in their own people.
I asked Young if the transfer of receiver Flynn Nagel from Marist had any impact on the interviewing process. No one player is bigger than the team, but hiring a run-oriented coach doesn’t necessarily maximize Nagel’s Division I skills or the offense’s potential.
“Yeah, you look at that,” Young acknowledged. “As a coach, you must do everything you can to maximize the players potential. We’ve done that in the past under Eric.”
Ideally, Young would like to have a new coach in place in two to three weeks. However, it likely will take longer.
“I’m not going to put a timeline on it,” Young said. “I’d be restricting myself. If it takes all February to get the right guy, so be it. I feel totally confident we’re going to get the right person.”