After watching the outsider it hired in March last only three months as football coach, Blake's administration opted for familiarity this time around.
One would be challenged to find anybody as familiar with the Yellow Jackets as Darryl Gordon.
Exactly two weeks before the start of preseason practice, Gordon has been hired to replace Micheal Burns as coach, athletic director Jesse Salters announced Monday morning. Decades of watching Blake's program flourish, disappear and resurrect itself leads Gordon to believe the Jackets have the potential to return to their pre-integration football glory days in short order.
"I was a community guy, I grew up around old Blake High," said Gordon, a Jackets assistant the past three years. "I knew what that tradition was like when they had (eventual NFL star) Leon McQuay and those guys. (The current program) reminds me of those guys. All we have to do is put things together and the kids have to understand what we're trying to do. There's talent there."
A former Plant defensive back and team captain in the late 1970s (Blake didn't exist as a high school then), Gordon becomes the program's third coach since the start of the 2011 season. Burns, hired in March after veteran Harry Hubbard was let go, resigned after only three months on the job.
Gordon has assisted at the prep level roughly a dozen years, working on Darlee Nelson's staff at Jefferson in the 1990s before joining Hubbard at Blake near the end of the last decade. Salters said the ability Gordon has displayed as an assistant, along with his dedication, loyalty and work ethic, prompted the school's administration to select him over 16 other applicants.
"The kids love him, respect him, listen to him," Salters said. "The community loves him. All the factors involved made him a perfect choice."
The manager at J.C. Newman Cigar Company in Ybor City, Gordon won't leave his job to work on Blake's campus, but said he'll have assistants "on the ground" at Blake during the day. "It won't be an issue," he said.
"We can't expect him to quit his job and teach," Salters said. "That was the only thing we were trying to work through and discuss, and I think we came up with a workable plan."
The father of two former Division I players (both of whom starred at Plant), Gordon inherits a program mired in mediocrity. Blake, 9-21 during the Hubbard era, hasn't had a winning season since 2000, the last year it reached the playoffs.
"I've seen the talent," Gordon said. "It's ups and downs but at the same time, when you've been around the game a long time, you can see where you can maybe help a program and help turn some things around."