Lepain is LeMan for Palm Harbor University job

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Mon. January 31, 2011 | Times Staff

Lepain is LeMan for Palm Harbor University job

If patience is a virtue, consider the Palm Harbor University football job Matt Lepain's reward.

Lepain, who spent the past eight seasons as Largo's defensive coordinator, bided his time as he was passed over for head coaching jobs at Countryside, Dunedin and Tarpon Springs last season.

On Monday, the wait was finally over.

PHU principal Christen Tonry said in an e-mail that Lepain had been hired to take over the Hurricanes. He replaces Mark Haye, who was fired in December after two seasons.

"I was frustrated at the process before," Lepain said. "I started to question whether I had the ability to be a head coach or was lacking something that schools were looking for. But, deep down, I knew my time would come."

Lepain, 40, who is married and has a 10-year-old daughter, said the PHU job was one he coveted because he lives 3 miles from the school.

"I live in Palm Harbor," Lepain said. "I'm a family man and I wanted to teach and coach close to home."

The news of Lepain's hire spread quickly.

Largo coach Rick Rodriguez answered the phone Monday night, not with a 'hello' or 'how's it going?" but with this: "It is about time someone hired Matt Lepain.''

The longtime Packers coach sounded almost giddy at the news that his defensive coordinator is now the head coach of the Hurricanes.

"He was overdue,'' Rodriguez said of Lepain. "He's paid his dues and literally worked his butt off here.''

Lepain, an alum of Countryside, is highly regarded as one of the county's top assistant coaches, and while at Largo was lauded for his game preparation and ability to adjust to what the opposing offense was doing. He also helped the Packers reach the state semifinals in 2007 and '08.

"I don't think we were ever outflanked,'' Rodriguez said.

Lepain takes over a PHU program that has had just one winning season and is the only public school in the county to never make the playoffs.  But the Hurricanes do have potential with nine returning starters on both sides of the ball.

Lepain said he will meet with the players on Thursday and with the parents during their board meeting on Feb. 7.

"There are more than 90 kids in the program, so there's a lot to work with," Lepain said. "I'm coming on board to win football games. And I don't want to do it by taking the easy way out. I want to play good competition. I want to get this thing going." 

Bob Putnam and John C. Cotey, Times staff writers

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