As John Harder gears up for another Hall of Fame induction, Tim Hill prepares for what he hopes to be a long and fruitful stay in Grand Junction, Colo., while Joe Kinnan tries to craft another December trip to the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
Players get it done. We all know that. The best strategists are rendered moot if they don’t have the personnel to execute.
But it’s no coincidence that Harder, Hill and Kinnan have their teams in contention seeming every year. They’re doing something right, and continue to do what may be the hardest thing to do in sports — get through to teenagers.
Harder has won two state titles and 617 games in 27 seasons as Southeast’s girls basketball coach and will be inducted Saturday into the Florida Basketball Coaches Court of Legends Hall of Fame in Orlando.
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Hill coached the State College of Florida’s baseball team to its sixth Juco state title Monday.
And Kinnan is five months removed from taking Manatee’s football team to a state championship game for a fourth consecutive decade.
Have these coaches benefitted from good players? Of course. Every coach, regardless of the sport, or whether it’s the pros, college or high school, needs talent.
But what has made the triumphs of guys such as Harder, Hill and Kinnan so impressive is how constant they have stayed amid constant turnover. They’ve been through waves of good players and bad, good people and bad, and somehow, always have their teams involved in some sort of championship mix.
Have they always been victorious? Have they always punched the right buttons?
Of course not. No one can all the time.
But they’ve managed to walk the delicate balance of staying true to their systems while remaining flexible to the different generations of kids they’ve coached.
Kinnan, for instance, has a list of 10 coaching philosophies that he puts on the cover of the manuals he hands out to his coaches each year.
“That has nothing to do with what you run offensively, defensively and with the kicking game,” he said days before his Hurricanes upset Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, which, at the time, was the top-ranked prep team in the nation. “That’s sort of carved in stone. That’s who you are and how you treat kids and how you run your program.”
Guys like Harder, Hill and Kinnan manage to keep winning regardless of who walks through their doors and throws on a uniform. The same can be said for Southeast football coach Paul Maechtle, who keeps the Seminoles in the playoff hunt every fall even as the school’s enrollment continues to shrink. The same can be said for Andy Gugliemini, Manatee’s wrestling coach since 1996 who seems to send a different wrestler up to the state medal podium every February.
All these coaches have had talent through the years. They’ve all had tremendous skill to work with. But the most important thing is they’ve known what to do with it.
Year in, year out, these coaches find a way to keep their kids in contention, make it so there’s something at stake late in the season.
Kids change. Schools change. Districts change.
These coaches have remained static.
Consequently, so has their success.
John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.