Coach Booth promises to honor Manatee High's football tradition

Coach Booth promises to honor Manatee's football tradition; Team's former quarterback coach resigns

jlembo@bradenton.comJuly 8, 2014 

BRADENTON -- John Booth, formally introduced Monday as Manatee High School's new head football coach, knows and respects what he is inheriting.

The Hurricanes have won five state championships, all under previous coach Joe Kinnan, a winner of 290 games who has taken a medical leave of absence. Booth also knows it's nothing like his previous head-coaching job at Valrico Bloomingdale, which had just one winning season on its ledger before Booth took over in 2009.

Booth wanted to win there. And he wants to win at Manatee, too.

"My expectation, I told the kids from day one at Bloomingdale, was we're going to win a district championship, get ourselves in the playoffs... and when you get in the play

offs, anything can really happen," he said. "That'll be my expectation here. If we don't win here, obviously the community isn't going to be happy with that. But it's not going to sit well with me, either."

Booth, who will also teach at Manatee High, met with Manatee's coaching staff and players last week. Most of the football team's staff was at Monday's press conference in the auditorium at Manatee High.

While Booth said last week he didn't plan on losing or moving coaching staff at Manatee High, he did just that when Chris Conboy resigned.

Booth, who plans to coach the quarterbacks, brought his brother James Booth over as the Hurricane's offensive coordinator. With those two roles filled, Conboy said he only had a minuscule role on the team.

Conboy served as the quarterbacks coach from 1992-98 and returned in the role in 2006. Reached after the press conference, Conboy said he decided to step down because his role would be limited with the head coach working with the quarterbacks and James Booth serving as the offensive coordinator.

Booth offered Conboy another position on staff. But he declined.

"They do what I do," said Conboy, who was one of seven finalists to replace Kinnan.

Still, Conboy said, the split was amicable: "I think stepping aside and letting them go 100 percent into the new system was the best thing."

Booth wants to get the players accustomed to the coming changes on offense.

"We're not changing up necessarily what we're doing -- just how we're calling it," John Booth said. "Little things -- how we huddle -- are going to be slightly different. But we've got five weeks left of the summer, two week before our first Kickoff Classic game... I'm confident we'll have plenty of time getting those guys caught up in what they need to do."

Most of the members of Manatee's seasoned staff remember John and James from their playing days, perhaps making the transition from Kinnan easier to deal with.

"John and James, no one worked any harder than those two did," said Steve Peebles, the Hurricanes' offensive line coach who has been coaching and playing at Manatee since 1980. "Just quality people, great young men and great futures in front of both of them."

Booth's hiring is expected to soothe a tumultuous time for Manatee's football program. Rod Frazier, a former assistant coach, pleaded no contest earlier this year to three misdemeanor counts of battery and three misdemeanor counts of interfering with school attendance. Citing health reasons, Kinnan didn't coach in the spring, and he didn't announce his decision on whether he planned to coach this coming year until June 20.

"That was probably the hardest part of the whole thing -- not knowing," Peebles said. "We're sitting there thinking, 'How long is this process going to take? Are we going to find out on July 25th who our coach is?' It's a huge relief to me for sure, I don't want to talk for anyone else, that it's been done and finalized."

Jason Montgomery, Manatee's athletic director, advertised the job nationally June 23 and received more than 70 resumés before paring the pool of finalists down to seven. Booth accepted the job last Tuesday.

"We've been in such limbo ever since I walked in here in February. It changed from week to week," Montgomery said. "I feel good about where we're at, though. John, you can't find anybody that has a bad word to say about the guy. To have somebody with that kind of character...We're sitting right where we want to be.

"He really is the perfect fit for the program."

The Hurricanes open the regular season Aug. 29 against Ware County in Georgia. The game will be played at Martin Stadium in Valdosta, which seats 12,000. Ware County went 11-2 last year and made the quarterfinals of Georgia's Class 5A playoffs.

"I'm excited to be here, I'm looking forward to the challenge," Booth said. "I was perfectly content at Bloomingdale. I loved what we were doing there and working with those kids and that staff. But if the position opened up at Manatee, what a dream job this would be. It came a little sooner than expected... It's beyond words. I'm just thrilled to be here."

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