Pasco High School football coach Perry Brown, whose team won the state championship in 1992, unexpectedly resigned Monday.
"I understand it's time for me to step back," said Brown, who has coached football at seven schools since 1977. "I've been going hard at it for 19 years."
His resignation letter cited "health and personal matters beyond my control."
He wouldn't be more specific in an interview, except to say: "Anybody that's coaching has a certain amount of stress. It was something that was beyond my control. My family has had a history of the men having heart problems, but I'm taking medication."
His resignation leaves the Pirates without a head coach just two weeks before players report for physicals.
"It was a shock," said Pasco principal Jackson C. Johnson Jr. "It came out of the blue. It could have knocked me over."
Johnson recounted a meeting with Brown in the spring.
"I said, "Perry, you're the football coach,'
" he recalled. "I was real excited, to be honest with you, with the prospects of the upcoming season. All I can tell you is that the man won year after year. Going to the state championship in 1992 was the pinnacle."
Brown said that until last week, he intended to return as coach.
"I know that it is not too long before the season starts, but I think that the team is in a good situation," he said. "Whoever comes in is not going to have to build from the ground up."
Brown has 103 wins in 19 seasons, which include coaching stints at Lake Weir, Hernando, Hawthorne, Trenton, Pelham (Ga.), Chiefland and Pasco. He compiled a 58-22 record in seven seasons at Pasco, guiding the Pirates to a 25-1 mark in 1991-92.
"If you really start thinking about (replacing Brown), you panic," Johnson said. "You just hope something works out."
Johnson said interviews for a replacement will begin next Wednesday.
"More than getting one quick, I hope we get one that's good," Johnson said. "The people in Dade City have grown accustomed to winning football."
Land O'Lakes coach John Benedetto already has a favorite candidate: former head coach Don Herndon, who came out of retirement last year to join Brown's staff of assistants.
"They need to give the job back to Don Herndon now," Benedetto said. "That would be my choice, because he's a veteran. He's good and it's going to be awfully hard for them to find someone else this time of year."
As for Brown, Benedetto said, "I thought he was a good coach. We had some really good games against Pasco."
Land O'Lakes beat Pasco twice, in 1989 and 1993, during Brown's tenure.
Brown, who teaches physical education and some biology classes at Pasco High, said he isn't sure whether he will remain a teacher there.
But he said he and his family will be in the stands on Friday nights at W. F. Edwards Stadium, supporting the Pirates.
"I still love the game, love the school and love the people in Dade City," Brown said.