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Three weeks before the start of preseason drills, Sickles football coach Pat O'Brien stunned his players this evening by informing them he has resigned to take an assistant's job at a Division III college in South Dakota.
Offensive coordinator Brian Turner has been hired to replace him.
"They were very surprised," said Turner, who found out himself less than a week ago. "Very few people knew what was going on and we wanted to make sure it didn't get out because we wanted Pat to be able to tell the kids and parents.
"They were shocked and very upset. Hopefully we can stay together and move forward."
A former Guy Toph Award-winning quarterback at Hillsborough, O'Brien will be defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D. The program begins play in 2011; O'Brien must report for work later this month.
"It all happened in the last week and a half, two weeks," O'Brien said.
"It was a lot of prayers answered, the Lord opening a lot of doors to make it happen. I've always had aspirations of being a coach in a small college town. I didn't necessarily think South Dakota would be the place, but it just happened all this at (Presentation) opened up."
While geographically a drastic move for O'Brien, it makes sense from a family perspective. His son, Cullen, is a quarterback at Southwest Minnesota State, a three-hour drive from Aberdeen. Presentation coach Andy Carr was an assistant at Southwest Minnesota State.
Additionally, O'Brien's sophomore daughter, Cassidy, who played basketball for Sickles, will join one of the Midwest's top girls programs at Aberdeen Central High.
"I'm not quite sure what my other duties are," O'Brien said. "Basically there's no teaching involved in it, it's just strictly coaching. I don't have any other outside jobs with the school."
In 11 seasons as a coach in Hillsborough County, including a stint at King and a previous stop at Sickles, O'Brien compiled a 40-72 record. He was 18-24 in his second go-round with the Gryphons, which started with an 0-10 campaign in '06 but ended with postseason berths in two of the last three years.
The 2009 team (8-3), the best in program history, reached the Class 4A playoffs.
Turner, son of alltime Hillsborough County coaching victories leader Billy Turner, called O'Brien "the most knowledgeable coach I've ever been around."
"Because of Sickles' past, I don't think he gets the respect he deserves," Turner said.
The whirlwind developments of the last week culminate a longtime head coaching pursuit for Turner, 44.
A physical education teacher at Sickles, he hoped to step in as Chamberlain's coach when his father retired at the end of the 2008 season, but the administration opted instead of John Colbert, who quit shortly after spring practice. Turner joined O'Brien's staff shortly thereafter.
He'll remain his own offensive coordinator for the time being.
"I'm very lucky I have the administration I work for," Turner said. "It's just short notice. (Principal Jake Russell) probably would've advertised the job if it weren't so close to the season, but we play a game in eight weeks."