Pasco High football coach Perry Brown resigned Monday, leaving the Pirates without a head coach just two weeks before players report for physicals.
"It was a shock," Pasco principal Jackson C. Johnson Jr. said of Brown's decision. "It came out of the blue. It could have knocked me over."
Johnson said Brown's resignation letter cited "health and personal matters beyond my control."
"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."
While Brown would not divulge his reasons for resigning, he did 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."
Midway through last season, former Pirates head coach Don Herndon came out of retirement to join Brown's staff of assistants. Amid speculation about other coaching changes at Pasco, former assistant Terry Voyles became Hernando High's head football coach in the off-season.
But Brown said that up until last week, "I had full intentions of coming back. I know that it is not too long before the season starts, but I think that the team is in a good situation. Whoever comes in is not going to have to build from the ground up."
Johnson said he met with Brown in the spring and "I said, "Perry, you're the football coach.'
"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 has 103 wins in 19 seasons, which includes 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 and winning the state title.
"If you really start thinking about (replacing Brown), you panic," Johnson said. "You just hope something works out."
The search for his replacement is not expected to last very long. Still, Johnson said he does not plan to hire the first applicant, adding that interviews 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. "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."
For his part, Brown 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.