BRADENTON -- When Manatee's football team begins spring practice Thursday, the Hurricanes will be doing so without their venerable head coach.
On Monday, Joe Kinnan said he will not be coaching this spring because of health reasons. When asked about returning for the fall, Kinnan said, "I'm hopeful."
Don Sauer, Manatee's principal, said Kinnan has been on medical leave since December. Anyone who is on leave cannot participate in extracurricular activities.
Kinnan said he was hoping to be better by the time spring rolled around. That, however, won't be the case. And as Manatee prepares for its May 23 home game against Haines City, Kinnan will not be on the field while his assistants run practices.
"My doctors said I can't be out there," he said. "It will be difficult, but health comes first."
Kinnan graduated from Manatee in 1963 and returned to coach the team in 1981. He left in 2000 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer but returned to the sideline
Kinnan has won 290 games and five state championships at Manatee, and was named to the Florida High School Athletic Association's all-century coaching staff in 2007.
"It will definitely be strange, but we've had times over the years where (Kinnan) has had to miss practice," said Chris Conboy, Manatee quarterbacks coach. "We have such an experienced staff, and he is so organized. ... We have the system down. It will be strange, but it's not a panic situation."
Jim Phelan, one of Kinnan's longtime assistants and the Hurricanes' defensive coordinator, will be the coach the referees defer to during a timeout, Conboy said.
Defensive coaches will run the defense while offensive coaches look over the offense.
Kinnan said his absence is solely because of his health and has nothing to do with what has transpired off the field. In December, Superintendent Rick Mills recommended Kinnan, Manatee's athletic director at the time, be suspended 10 days for his role in financial improprieties surrounding the school baseball program. The Florida High School Athletic Association fined the school more than $13,000 because for program violations.
Kinnan said he planned to refute the recommendation.
"I'm on medical leave," Kinnan said. "I'm not even at work."
Manatee opens the regular season Aug. 29 in Georgia against Ware County. Kinnan said he is hoping to be back by then, and Sauer said the school is giving him time to do so.
"We'll wait to see how everything plays out with his health," Sauer said. "Jason (Montogmery, Manatee's athletic director) has done a great job working with me on that. We just want to make sure everyone is taken care of. Joe's done a great job, and he deserves the chance to get healthy."
The Hurricanes are also planning to begin the spring without quarterback Josh Meyer, a rising senior who faces charges of lewd and lascivious battery. Meyer accounted for 2,014 yards of offense and 22 touchdowns last year before hurting his shoulder in the first quarter of Manatee's Class 8A-Region 2 semifinal loss at Fort Pierce Central.
Conboy said it will be the coaches' job to keep the players focused on football.
"It all comes from how we handle it, and the coaches not panicking," Conboy said. "If the kids sense panic over either one of those situations, the kids will panic. With this staff, there's nothing we haven't faced before."