One thing is certain: Huntsville wants to feel like a winner again.
That message was made loud and clear Tuesday evening during a unique “Hornet Football Community Meeting” in which the desired qualities of the Hornets’ next head football coach were discussed.
Many of the community members who spoke to the Huntsville ISD Board of Trustees and Superintendent Steve Johnson mentioned the same traits: discipline, respect, fairness, commitment, leadership and pride.
They want Huntsville ISD to hire a football coach who possesses those qualities, and if the district finds someone who can be tough but fair, a coach who enthusiastically commands his players and assistants and a guy who can rebuild the Hornet pride that existed here when Huntsville won state championships in football and basketball in the early 1980s, everything will fall into place.
“This community prides itself on being the best,” former Hornets quarterback Brian Adams told the board late in Tuesday’s meeting. “I was fortunate to have the best coaching staff, period.”
“We want to be state champions again,” said board member Patrick Antwi. “... To do that we have to have a common bond in our community. We want to be winners again, and we want our coaches to train our kids to be the best of the best.”
More than 60 people sat in the boardroom at the Hawkins Administration Building during the 90-minute meeting. A few stood in the back and listened as parents, longtime Hornet supporters and a couple of school district employees talked to the board and the superintendent.
Susan Bohan, whose son plays for the Hornets, said she wants a leader, a motivator, an instructor on football who also stresses academics, a mentor and a disciplinarian.
“More important,” she said, “what do our athletes want? Our kids want to learn the skills to improve, they want someone who can bring them together so they can work with each other, and finally they want to be successful. The talent here is amazing and these kids want to do great things.”
The Hornets are looking for a new coach because Johnson asked Shane Martin to resign following a 2-8 season last fall. Martin was Huntsville’s head coach for the past four seasons. He was the Hornets’ defensive coordinator for two years prior to that. The Hornets went 17-23 and advanced to the postseason three times during Martin’s watch as head coach.
“I want a coach with a proven winning resume,” Leroy Bryant urged. “I want a coach who is proven to have his players under control. I want somebody who’s going to put the best players on the field whether it’s the varsity team, the freshmen all the way to the junior high. I also want them to have control over the seventh- and eighth-grade teams.
“... There’s a lot of talent in Huntsville, and there’s a lot of talent that’s not playing football. Some of our kids don’t play because they say (the Hornets) are losers. We need to hire a real coach and our parents need to respect him.”
Longtime Hornet Jerry Hollis shared a short list of qualities he wants to see in Huntsville’s next football coach. Like most of the other speakers, he mentioned character and integrity and a teacher who could help his players learn life skills through football. He also wants an experienced head coach who can assemble a strong staff. He wants a guy who can evaluate players and adjust to the talent he has each season.
Finally, Hollis wants to see the Hornets’ next coach getting involved in not just the junior high football program, but with youth sports around town. If the new coach does that, Hollis believes Huntsville can be a consistent winner again.
“The feeling that goes through this town and the buzz you can hear when we’re winning is amazing,” Hollis said.
Board president J.T. Langley told community members when the meeting kicked off that HISD has received 122 applications for the vacant position. Today at 5 p.m. is the deadline for coaches to submit their resumes and other paperwork.
A small committee made up of Johnson, deputy superintendent Sonny Cruse, human resources director Colleen McMillian and girls athletic director/head golf coach Marcus Evans will screen the applications and sort out the candidates who don’t meet the requirements for the job.
The screening committee will then put together packets for the search committee, and it will be that committee’s responsibility to come up with a list of about eight to 10 candidates who will be asked to come here for interviews.
The search committee will conduct those interviews, then narrow its list to two or three finalists. Those names will be given to Johnson, who will conduct his own interviews with the finalists before making a recommendation to the board for approval.
Johnson hopes to have everything done by the end of the month. He believes Tuesday’s community meeting will help HISD make what likely will be a tough decision.
“I thought tonight’s meeting went well. I was pleased with the numbers and pleased with the folks who came out. I was very pleased with the input people gave us. This information should provide a good base we can build on.
“... We heard things we knew we’d hear — character and integrity — but we also heard fairness,” Johnson said. “This is a community thing, it’s a community issue.”
Supporters tell board what they want in Hornets’ next coach
One thing is certain: Huntsville wants to feel like a winner again.
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