Gibbs filled Pinellas County’s final football coaching vacancy Thursday by hiring Rick Kravitz, the former USF defensive coordinator who graduated from Dixie Hollins and has more than 20 years coaching experience at the collegiate level.
Principal Stephanie Adkinson said Kravitz will meet with the players after spring break.
"Mr. Kravitz has an extensive background in coaching at all levels," Adkinson said. "The thing that impressed me during the interview is that he said he started his career in Pinellas County and wanted to end it here."
The hiring ends a nearly two-month search to find a replacement for Antonio Knox, who resigned in January after two seasons. There were nearly 100 applicants for the position. The list was whittled down to eight finalists who were interviewed last week.
Kravitz, 58, who spent the past three seasons as defensive coordinator at Youngstown State, decided to leave college coaching to return to the high school ranks. He was teaching at Ocala West Orange this semester and applied at several openings in the bay area, including Gulf, Hudson and Bradenton Bayshore.
"I really just wanted to come back home," Kravitz said. "I've always been intrigued with Gibbs. There has always been great tradition there and a great community. I know it well because I went up against Gibbs as a player and a coach and I recruited the area when I coached in college."
Kravitz started his career as a defensive coordinator at Lakewood in 1979 before becoming an assistant coach at Countryside from 1980-83. He went on to be the defensive coordinator at Florida A&M from 1986-93.
After a stint as an assistant at West Alabama from 1994-95, he spent the next 10 seasons at USF (1996-2005). Since then, Kravitz has been either a defensive coordinator or assistant coach at NC State (2006), Memphis (2007), Western Michigan (2008-09) and Youngstown State (2010-12).
Kravitz now has the challenge of revitalizing a Gibbs program that has had just three winning seasons since 2000. He also has the task of getting players to stay. Since Knox resigned, two of the Gladiators' top returning players, quarterback/defensive back Patric Jones and defensive back Albert Laskett, have transferred to Lakewood.
"I want to get the kids enthusiastic about football," Kravitz said. "The best recruiters are the guys already on your football team. They can go through the halls and encourage others to come out for football."