Legendary Manchester coach says his replacement will do ’great job’ for the Panthers

Manchester High School is a place where coaches go and never leave.

And when they do depart, the school promotes from within, looking to familiar faces to find their successors.

Such was the case over the last month.

On April 21, Manchester hired A.J. Hite as head girls basketball coach. Hite had coached boys basketball for most of his 20 years at the school under head coach Gene Schindewolf, a 1971 Manchester graduate who has had the job since 1985.

On Tuesday night, the Manchester Board of Education is expected to hire Jay Brophy as head football coach. Brophy, 59, had spent the past two seasons on the staff of Jim France, who announced his retirement two months ago after spending 49 years on the job.

"Jay said he liked the way we did things here, and the atmosphere," France said. "He said it wasn’t that way at some of the other places he’s been."

France, who served on the selection committee for the new coach. said Brophy will do "a great job."

"He’s a really good guy. The kids like him," France said. "But he’s also disciplined and he will keep them in line. He’s smart, he’s a hard worker and he’s dedicated. And from his time playing at a high level in college (Miami, Fla.) and the NFL (for a combined four seasons with the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets), he knows his football and his X’s and O’s.

"When my son, Jason (France, the team’s longtime offensive coordinator) said he wasn’t interested in the head coaching job after I retired, Jay immediately became the guy I wanted. With this coronavirus thing going on, I think going into next season and beyond that we need someone who knows the program and the kids. Jay is that guy."

The last time Manchester looked for a football coach, following the 1984 season when France was asked to step down after becoming high school principal (a job he will hold for one more year), the school hired former longtime University of Akron offensive line coach Tom Flaherty, who had no connection to the school. Things didn’t go well. The Panthers finished just 2-8, still their only losing season since 1968, and a number of players became disenchanted and quit the team. France returned the following year.

Now the Panthers have someone who is committed for the long term, just as Hite said he was when he got the girls basketball job.

"I love it at Manchester. I love the school, the community and the program," Brophy said. "I never wanted Coach (France) to retire, and I never wanted his assistants to leave with him, but I knew some of them (Jason France, John Forret and Mark Yokum) were going to go. But I realized in the very least that, no matter who got the head coaching job, I wanted to stay, even if it were just as an assistant. This is my last stop. This is where I’m going to end my career."

The people at Manchester will like to hear that.

"The football team hasn’t played a down yet, and the girls basketball team hasn’t taken a shot yet, but we think we got two very good coaches in Jay and A.J.," Manchester Schools Superintendent Jim Robinson said.

By the way, Robinson was defensive coordinator for the Panthers for 40 years and got his introduction to the district back in 1972 as a student teacher.

NOTES: Brophy said he would like to retain two members of France’s coaching staff, Jason Jividen and Tim Paul. "I’m also talking to some other people who have connections to the program, the school and the community," he said … France recounted the story of how Brophy first came to Manchester. "Jay and I knew each other and had coached against each other and he came in to talk to me at my office one day asking me about his next coaching move, about possibly being a head coach again and what I thought about what he should do," he said. "I gave him some advice. He said he wanted to continue coaching, and I mentioned that I needed an assistant coach and asked him if he was interested. He said, ‘I’ll think about it and get back to you.’ He called me a couple minutes later and said, ‘I drove about a mile, and I have decided I want to take you up on your offer.’ " … Brophy and France coached against each other in a second-round Division IV, Region 13 playoff game at Ravenna High School way back on Nov. 10, 2001. It was the first of Brophy’s three seasons as head coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary. The Irish, featuring LeBron James at receiver, defeated the Panthers 38-14. One of the Manchester players was defensive back Mark Yocum, with whom Brophy has coached the last two seasons. Yocum made a jarring tackle of James along the Irish sideline that nearly knocked both of them out of the game. The Panthers, who finished 9-3, had won eight in a row heading into the game. The Irish lost two weeks later to Newark Licking Valley 37-13 in the state semifinals to complete a 10-4 season. Brophy’s three-year record at St. Vincent-St, Mary was 20-15. He later was head coach in 2009-10 at Sebring McKinley.