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Critics are piling on football coach

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POSTED: November 17, 2007 5:00 a.m.

I don’t know Richmond Hill High School football coach Brian Brocato.

But my guess is the man is in the job for the same reason as most other high school coaches - and teachers, for that matter. He wants to succeed and he wants his kids to succeed. That and he loves what he does, since Lord knows he won’t get rich at it.

I bring this up because there seems to be a group of folks who want him gone and they’ve been using our website to express their disenchantment - often in less than polite terms.

Others have come to his defense, and it’s gotten to the point we’re getting more blogs on Richmond Hill football than we are on the upcoming elections - or anything else, for that matter.

This verbal blistering of Brocato’s virtual backside reminds me, to an extent, of the highly acclaimed movie "Hoosiers," where Gene Hackman is a has-been big time coach who gets one last chance at a small Indiana high school. He winds up winning a state title after overcoming resistance and an attempted midseason coup by disgruntled fans.

That’s Hollywood, of course. Real life rarely works out that way.

Real life has coaches who get fed up with the criticism and move on, making way for another coach who also probably won't be able to win fast enough or often enough to satisfy the critics.

Frankly, I don’t know whether Brocato is a good football coach. I do know this is his second season in charge of a program that hasn't exactly set the world on fire in quite some time, so I believe he deserves a real chance to prove he can win. There used to be a consensus among those who knew the sport that you give a coach time to get his system and his coaches in place. Time to put together a weight training program. Time to figure out how to get a middle school feeder system built so kids start learning how to do things the varsity way as early as the seventh grade. And if you don’t think middle school feeder systems have anything to do with football success in Georgia, take a spin to Kingsland or Valdosta or Warner Robins or anywhere else football still dominates Friday nights and watch how they do things.

But this isn't necessarily about feeder systems, it's about the time and will necessary to do the things it takes to win. Neither is an easy thing to come by these days, where people want things to happen now, not later.

I've heard it takes at least five years to get a program turned around and that’s how long it took Liberty County Coach Kirk Warner. He inherited a team that finished 0-10 in 2001 and got the Panthers in the playoffs for the first time last season.

Warner had teams that managed no more than three wins in each of his first four seasons before the football team posted it’s first winning record and postseason appearance in school history in 2006. He was lucky administrators didn't listen to some fans.

I covered sports in Liberty County for seven years and there were dozens who questioned his ability to coach and some who wanted him gone after his first season. Warner wasn't the only one who has his critics. David Jones, who won five state basketball titles and has more than 600 wins over a 30-plus year career that has seen several stops, including Bradwell Institute, is routinely second guessed in Hinesville. Since 2002, Willie Graham has lead three Liberty County High School basketball teams to the Class AAA Final Four. People still call for his job.

Bob Griffith, a 200-game winner and one of Georgia high school football’s ambassadors - he spent the last few years working for Georgia Tech as a liaison with the state’s high school programs - had plenty of critics during his days in Effingham County.

Brad Weir, a former BI baseball coach had plenty of critics, too. He seemed mostly amused by them."The dogs may bark," he'd say, "but the caravan moves on." Weir and his teams got barked at plenty during his time in Hinesville and he once suggested that games be played with locked gates to keep the fans away. I don't think he was kidding.

Nor do I think a school administrator from Liberty County was joking when she told me a couple years ago that it's going to get to the point that no one is going to want to coach, teach or work with young people if things don't change. She had a reason to be gloomy: we had just finished witnessing the bizarre spectacle of a parent assaulting a football coach after a loss.

Most coaches don't seem to lose much sleep over the critics, no matter how much they get piled on.

No surprise there. You want to coach, you need thick skin.

But that doesn't make getting piled on any fairer.

 

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