There has been a running inside joke among Bruce Brown, Kevin Tobin and Jeff Wendorf. The Lake Local administrative teams — Brown is the athletic director, Tobin the high school principal and Wendorf the superintendent — now find themselves in a situation they all knew was coming, but hoped to avoid.
The three all hoped they’d retire before longtime, iconic football coach Jeff Durbin did and leave the task of filling the large void to someone else.
That didn’t happen.
Durbin retired as the middle school principal three years ago and, since then, he has been working on a series of one-year supplemental contracts. Lake’s administrative team, wisely, let Durbin figure out when it was time to retire. They gave him space and time to make that decision.
The Blue Streaks have struggled to win games the last two years. However, Lake won its final game, the last one Durbin coached. This offseason made for the right time for Durbin to walk away and enjoy full retirement with his wife Teresa.
Now Brown, Wendorf and Tobin have an important hire to make.
“It’s no different than hiring a teacher in a sense,” Tobin said. “I take great pressure in that. It’s the most important thing I do. That’s where the rubber meets the road in helping kids. There will be pressure. I welcome that. We will do the best due diligence and get the right person to lead young people. It’s beyond the football field. We’ve been fortunate to have long-tenured coaches here and we have been diligent in hiring people who have values. The hope is not to hire someone for the short term, but to continue what Lake football represents beyond the wins and losses.”
And here is where the but comes in.
Lake isn’t in a position to hire any coach regardless of teaching certification. Brown said he was unsure of what areas may be open, but he would like to hire a football coach who is in one of the buildings during the day within the district.
Durbin’s son, Luke Durbin, has gained valuable experience as Massillon’s defensive coordinator. He has interviewed for head coaching jobs before.
Might there be a Durbin, still, leading Lake?
“I wouldn’t count on that,” Jeff Durbin said. “I don’t think now is the time for that. A lot of people have been a part of the program and deserve a shot.”
Durbin said he would like to see longtime assistant coach Dan DeGeorge get a shot at being the head coach. That could happen.
Brown said qualifications have not been established yet, but that will happen soon.
“In fairness to the process, we haven’t really had an opportunity as an administrative team to identify those bullet points,” Brown said. “It is safe to say in general we would want someone who can demonstrate an awareness of what our culture is. … We have an obligation to the kids, the community and the school of what values we want of a new coach and we want to make sure that person reflects those values.
Page 2 of 4 - “I don’t know that we have a particular offensive or defensive scheme. I think you let the artist have a clean pallette and move forward. To say our environment, past experiences and culture isn’t significant would be the wrong message. That will be taken into consideration very strongly. It’s been a good atmosphere.”
There are two dynamics at play in this hiring. First, the people doing the hiring have to get this right. Lake is a solid program that is built on hard-working young players believing more in themselves than those outside the community do. But the second is the new coach himself needs to be dynamic and strong enough to handle the pressure of replacing a legend like Durbin.
There are people close to the Lake program who speculate that former longtime assistant coach and current Copley High School head coach Ron Viscounte will be a candidate to watch. That is true under normal circumstances, but whether Lake can hire a coach who is not a teacher within the district remains to be seen. If Lake can do so, there will be a large pool of qualified coaches.
Then the next step will be getting that group down to a working number of those who have an intimate knowledge of Lake’s program and the community. The next coach will be someone very familiar with what Lake is and who its players are.
Durbin does not anticipate being a part of the committee that hires a new coach. However, Brown said he would use Durbin to bounce names off of.
And there’s this, too: Brown said he knew this day would come at some point and he has an idea of some candidates he would like to see express an interest in the back of his mind.
During about an hour-long interview on the day he announced his retirement from football, Durbin left open the possibility of returning to the sideline.
But not this fall.
“I really think I want to step back this fall,” Durbin said. “Certainly, I want to stay close to the Lake program and see as many games as I can see. I’ll see how I feel about it. I feel like at some point I will jump back in (to coaching) in some capacity. I think I really need to enjoy this period with (wife) Teresa. There are some things we’ve wanted to do in the fall that we’ve never been able to do.
“As long as I feel good — and I do right now — I see myself getting back into it.”
Keep in mind that Durbin as two sons, Luke and Ted, who are assistant coaches in the Federal League. Luke coaches at Massillon and Ted at Perry.
Page 3 of 4 - GLENOAK-OSU HOOPS GAME
Last week’s fundraiser at GlenOak High School — a basketball game between former Ohio State football players and a rag-tag group of Stark County “All-Stars” — was well attended and an entertaining game. As a member of the Stark County team, I can say there was a certain level of disappointment with the Ohio State players.
The Stark County team beat the former Buckeyes — made up of mostly members of the 2002 national championship team and brought here by GlenOak grad and former OSU star Dustin Fox — 68-63 … and it was really that close.
Ohio State’s best player was either Fox or former punter Andy Groom, who is a sneaky athlete. However, the Stark County team had the two best players on the floor.
Stan Hall, who is a girls basketball coach at GlenOak, can still play. He bailed out the Stark team several times and drilled a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute to put some space between the teams. Jami Bosley, Stark County’s all-time leading scorer who played at Jackson High School, Ohio State and Akron, still has skills. Bosley is older, but he still has a skill set that is worth watching, even today.
TECHNICAL IN A CHARITY GAME
In the second half, Fox was guarding his brother Derek Fox under the basket and was called for a foul. Dustin thought he got all ball, and still does. Derek believes otherwise, and so did the official. Dustin protested the call long, and loud enough, that he earned a technical foul.
Ohio State players were groaning the entire game about the officiating.
The bottom line is the game was a successful fundraiser for GlenOak’s football booster club. About 800 people came out and between ticket sales and auction items, more than $7,000 was raised.
High school principals across Ohio will have the opportunity to vote on a new competitive balance proposal from May 1-15. The current proposal treats public and nonpublic high schools the same and limits the scope to where athletic teams get their players from, and puts a boundary on nonpublic schools’ attendance zone (see story page C-1).
This is the first attempt in the country that anyone is aware of within the OHSAA to define a nonpublic schools’ attendance zone.
There is no perfect bylaw for the problem. However, this proposal has promise and the OHSAA has said the competitive balance committee will get back together and define parameters. OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross said he hopes to have a pilot program in place in a year, too.
If member schools do not pass this measure, it will put Ohio yet another year behind addressing the problem. This proposal has been so well received outside of Ohio that other state associations have contacted Ross to learn more about it.
Page 4 of 4 - MEYER ON WASHINGTON
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer wants to see defensive lineman Adolphus Washington fill the loss of John Simon on the defensive line.
“He’s a guy we’ve identified as an extremely talented guy,” Meyer said. “We hoped he would have more playing time as a freshman, but that did not develop. He graded out a nine or 10 every time on attitude and effort. He doesn’t play with a chip on his shoulder. He’s not an angry player. The position he plays, you have to play angry and you have to play hard. You have to intimidate people.”