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Cotey: By hiring John Colbert as Chamberlain's new football coach, Jeff Boldt made the difficult decision

TAMPA — Jeff Boldt could have made the easy decision.

The Chamberlain principal could have picked the guy coaching legend Billy Turner wanted, the guy the players wanted, the guy who many people assumed was a slam dunk.

Instead, the principal called Brian Turner, Son of Legend, in the office and did the hard thing.

"That was a difficult conversation to have,'' Boldt said.

It took 20 minutes, but came down to this: John Colbert was going to be the next head football coach at Chamberlain.

And Brian Turner wasn't.

• • •

Brian Turner grew up on Chamberlain's football field.

The past few years, with his father's health failing, he ran the show.

He worked diligently and tirelessly promoting his players, producing highlight DVDs for colleges.

He oversaw the building of the field house. He did the laundry. He ran offseason conditioning. He started a team Web site. He coached an offensive line that opened holes for a top running attack, he helped develop quarterback Dontae Aycock into a Guy Toph winner, he was in charge of one of the county's best offenses.

All of this made Turner the easy choice for the job.

It did not make him the best one, however.

"It wasn't close,'' said Boldt, adding that's no knock on Turner, but he was just that happy with Colbert.

Brian Turner is a great guy. There's no doubt that no candidate loves Chamberlain, or its football players, more than he does.

It would be nice to see him stick around, to keep doing the things he does so well.

But that is unlikely.

If not, Brian Turner should look into the opening at Land O'Lakes, and vice versa.

That area is ripe for Turner's kind of enthusiasm.

As for Billy Turner, he didn't get a say in choosing his successor, and maybe he was owed that. But considering his son was a candidate and no one was going to change Billy's mind that he deserved it most, why bother with an empty symbolic gesture that would have just made the whole thing more difficult for everyone?

What Chamberlain really owes Billy Turner is one Friday, preferably the season opener. It owes him a field dedication. It owes him one last night of adulation and thanks.

It doesn't owe him the successor of his choice, because this is high school football, not a family-owned business.

Boldt and Chamberlain did this the hard way, but the fact is this: they did it the absolutely correct way.

They interviewed candidates, then picked their best six, then picked their favorite one.

They didn't owe Brian Turner the job. They owed the school, its alumni and the players the person they felt would do the best job.

Today, that's Colbert.

• • •

We will find out if Chamberlain made the right decision soon enough.

I think they made a fine choice.

Colbert is a former college player, college administrator, assistant coach and most importantly, he did five years at Tampa Bay Tech in the late 1990s, turning a moribund program into a district champion.

"John is a proven head coach, No. 1,'' Boldt said. "Brian was interim, or intern, call it whatever you want but John has had a level of success taking a program from basically nowhere to doing good things."

After an 0-10 season in 1998 with TBT, he won three more games each of the next three seasons.

In 2001, after only the second eight-win season in TBT history, he quit for health reasons, but re-emerged as an assistant at traditional football power Apopka.

On paper, you can make a strong case for Brian Turner and others.

That's why they have interviews.

Colbert nailed his.

"We had an instantaneous relationship,'' he said.

There was no decision to end the Turner legacy no matter what. No decision to roll the dice.

Boldt feels strongly about his choice. He sounded more excited than any principal I've ever talked to about a new coach.

"This wasn't the second-best guy out there; this was the best guy,'' he said. "This was not a gut decision or a hunch.''

This was a slam dunk.

John C. Cotey can be reached at

Cotey: By hiring John Colbert as Chamberlain's new football coach, Jeff Boldt made the difficult decision 04/03/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 3, 2009 9:19pm]
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