Those watching from afar the latest head football coach hiring process at Sherman High School and expecting another spectacle like what happened in 2003 had to come away extremely disappointed.
Forget it. The circus has done left town.
Yes, the process took a long time — two full months and seven days, to be exact, after former coach Gary Kinne resigned Jan. 17.
But this time around, the Sherman ISD and superintendent Al Hambrick ran a tight ship in the job search that came up with Justin Northwest’s Bill Patterson for the second time in 11 years.
And more importantly, the district displayed unanimity to the public across the board — from Hambrick to athletic director Tommy Hudspeth, who’s looking less and less by the day as an interim AD, to the board of trustees which voted 7-0 to hire Patterson.
A lot of people put their stamp of approval on this hiring, including booster club members and high school faculty and principals.
“It was important … that we would begin the process with whoever would be coming into the district (with) support from … all the people that initially will be working with this coach, including the booster club,” Hambrick said after Monday’s school board meeting. “That’s one of the reasons why we involved a wider range of people in this process. We felt like that wide involvement allowed us to be more in agreement of who the person could or would be.”
It’s a dramatic difference from the first time around, when Patterson was the choice of the search firm and the hiring committee led by Hambrick’s predecessor, Rodney Hutto — only to be shot down by a powerful minority serving on the school board at that time.
On May 13, 2003, Patterson’s hiring did pass by a 4-3 margin, but with that tepid public backing being shown, Patterson — at the time head coach at Garland Naaman Forest — rightfully rejected the offer the next day, throwing the search into chaos.
Fortunately, the Bearcats had their man all along, as defensive coordinator and fellow finalist Drew Young — the favorite of fans, players and the school board minority — was promoted a week later, on May 20.
Young would stick around for six more seasons and would lead the Bearcats to the Class 4A Division I state semifinals in 2004.
Kinne’s hiring in July 2009 was a slightly different matter in several ways: It was a race against the calendar; the timing of the vacancy after Young’s retirement resulted in a reduced number of applicants; and Kinne was head and shoulders above all other candidates.
This time around, perhaps mindful of what transpired in 2003, the Sherman ISD had all its ducks in a row. The search, led this time by Hambrick as superintendent, was played much closer to the vest. Much like the wheels of justice, the process ground exceedingly slow, but exceedingly fine.
Sure, some details of the search — some of it accurate, some not — did emerge, no doubt to the delight of the peanut gallery.
Word of Patterson’s nomination as the No. 1 choice had the cynics and haters, who remembered the 2003 fiasco, coming out of the woodwork on social media like Twitter and high school message boards.
But in the end, there was no dissent.
Like a sequestered jury (another gratuitous justice simile), the seven school board members reached a consensus behind closed doors and presented a unified front. The superintendent and the AD saw eye-to-eye on Patterson. And Patterson, feeling the love he didn’t sense 11 years ago, quickly accepted the job.
No tent poles, no elephants, no sideshows. The late P.T. Barnum, watching from above, slumped his shoulders and slouched toward the egress.
At long last, Sherman fans can once again focus on the game between the lines.
As Patterson settles in starting officially on Monday, lots of details need to be sorted out in the coming weeks.
There’s the potential for coaching staff upheaval as Patterson decides on which assistants to keep and which to bring with him. A decision on whether to conduct spring football will also have to be made.
A lot of fans I’ve spoken with thought that Hambrick made a mistake last October by publicly dragging out the fallout from Kinne’s University Interscholastic League punishment for rules violations. In doing so, the opinion was, he created more distractions which torpedoed the Bearcats’ football season. That may be so, although I submit that key injuries played a bigger role.
But in the hiring of Kinne’s replacement, Hambrick deserves nothing but praise for a well-run search. It took a while, but Hambrick was able to bring a lot of people together to hop aboard the Patterson bandwagon, nipping another disastrous process in the bud.
Patterson can start his new job knowing he doesn’t have to constantly look over his shoulder. All he has to do is coach football.