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Column: What's the hurry, Clearwater?

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Thu. July 19, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: What's the hurry, Clearwater?

The under-performing Clearwater High football program needs a new coach.

It needs more players.

It needs more fans.

It needs an energized community.

The Clearwater way, at least on the football field, is broken.

But the Clearwater way — and learning it, living it, loving it — is why principal Keith Mastorides says he is embarking on something that, well, doesn’t seem to make much sense: A coach in waiting.

Mastorides wants someone in place for 2013 in 2012, a coach to work as an assistant, with the staff, to get to know the players.

“Someone to learn the Clearwater way,’’ he told the Times, which the last time I checked hasn’t exactly been the way to football success.

Doing it now, however, is robbing the football program of its last bit of remaining value, which is the name.

Instead of waiting to the end of the season, when coach Tom Bostic steps down after 30 seasons, to cast a wide net bound to pull in a impressive array of candidates — this is, despite the past decade of stagnation, a program many would love to get their clipboards on — Clearwater has posted a job with five days to gather applicants and another week or so to make a decision.

What’s the rush? Especially when the principal has said that the coach in waiting will be evaluated before he is given the job, meaning he’s not a coach in waiting, he’s a coach on a tryout.

Have fun selling that to anyone who is employed right now.

The new guy might be the most important athletic hire the school has made in decades, if not ever.

His task: revive what was once Pinellas County’s best program, in a time long ago. Make Clearwater what everyone seems to think it should be — the county’s flagship program.

While you’re at it, bring the whole athletic department with you, like they’ve done at Plant.

This hire, it’s BIG. The job is even bigger. It’s something you take your time on.

The team looked ill-prepared in the spring and would have given up, without question, 100 points if the Largo coaches hadn’t shown mercy.

If the idea is to bring in someone to carry on the Clearwater way, then promote an assistant and keep the rest of the staff.

If the idea is to bring in someone to revitalize the program, then Clearwater needs to start this process over.

Say, in December.

Hiring coaches in waiting, at the high school level, for one season is a bad idea (and there’s a bunch of people at Florida State that will tell you it isn’t such a hot idea in college, either.)

But the timing — three weeks before the start of fall practice — could not be worse.

There are many very good coaches in Pinellas County, at very good programs, who have told me in the past they would leave for just one job: Clearwater. It’s that promising. But few, if any, would leave now.

By posting now, Clearwater stands no chance at landing, for example and if they were interested, Pinellas Park’s Kenny Crawford, St. Petersburg’s Joe Fabrizio, Palm Harbor University’s Matt LePain, East Lake’s Bob Hudson or Largo’s Rick Rodriguez, an-ex Tornadoes assistant and unanimous winner if you put this to a vote in Clearwater.

Highly-regarded assistants like Eric Schmitz, Keith Powers or Chris Carothers (a Clearwater grad; no need to learn the Clearwater way) may be off the table.

And what about Hillsborough County (maybe lure one of Plant’s assistant coaches) or a college assistant looking to return home.

The point is, the job is good enough to attract a mighty  impressive list, far better than the one that will likely be compiled by the end of Friday.

If that’s not important, think about the kids. It’s hard to imagine how a coach in waiting doesn’t split the Tornadoes.

The seniors are thrown into the middle of some grand experiment, where they are of no use to the new coach, who won’t care as much about winning in 2012 as in 2013.

The younger players will be torn, taking instruction from the old guy — instruction that has been deemed subpar enough to nudge him out the door — when there’s a new guy to impress.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Clearwater may already have someone in mind, though Mastorides says the job is wide open. Maybe it’s an assistant, who gets the in-waiting tag to give his authority some extra heft.

Bostic, however, is going to coach in 2012. Your assistants will be around. You have six months to watch, to analyze, to evaluate, which you say you’re going to do anyway.

If you want to promote one after the season, do so. If you decide to blow up the program and start over, that’s fine, too.

Clearwater needs a new coach.

It also needs more time.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com

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