High School Sports

Prep football | Manatee defensive coordinator Jim Phelan fired after run to state final four

BRADENTON -- Jim Phelan, architect of a Manatee High defense that enabled the football program to be among the state's elite, was fired Wednesday by Hurricanes head football coach John Booth.

Phelan said Booth fired him after six years as defensive coordinator in a brief meeting that lasted a couple of minutes.

"There were some philosophical differences we had and moving forward, and I thought it would be best for us as a whole to run smoothly by doing this," Booth said. "I don't want to go into specifics. Some of the differences were Xs and Os, and some were coaching styles. I respect him and what he has done for our program. He has a great football mind."

Phelan was named defensive coordinator in 2008 by Joe Kinnan. During that time the Canes gave up an average of 11.6 points per game against some of the toughest competition in the state, and compiled an 86-8 record that included a state championship in 2011.

"The meeting lasted about two minutes. Coach Booth just told me that our philosophies didn't mesh, but never explained what he meant," Phelan said. "I can't say I was surprised because we didn't talk since mid-season. I would coach the defense and he never said anything to me. I gave him a letter of resignation because he asked for it, but he fired me."

Booth named linebackers coach Chad Choate as the interim defensive coordinator. Booth added that running backs Cord Graham has also been released.

Phelan coached the Canes' tackles and tight ends from 1991-2001.

Kinnan hired Phelan as defensive coordinator in 2008. Since that time through last season, the Canes went to five state final fours, won a title and reached two state championship games.

The 58-year-old Phelan was named interim head coach last spring when it was uncertain whether Kinnan would return because of health reasons. When Kinnan decided to retire, Manatee hired Booth as head coach in a move that surprised a lot of people connected with the program.

The Hurricanes went to the state final four last season despite Phelan overseeing a young patchwork defense that was, at times, forced to compensate for an offense that had its struggles.

Phelan said he never had a confrontation with Booth, but figured something was not right when he never heard from the head coach.

"He hadn't talked to me in two months. He didn't even say hello to me at the banquet," Phelan said. "When he was hired he said I was in charge of the defense and we never had a discussion about what was going on."

Booth said he understands that because of Phelan's popularity and standing in the community, he might receive some negative feedback, but stood by his decision.

"... there will be decisions that are not going to please everyone, but at the end of the day I have to do things that I think are best for the program," Booth said. "I am not going to base a decision on the perception of what is right."

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