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The truck backed up and the head football coach at Cardinal Newman High School climbed aboard. The truck then went to Montgomery, and did the same thing. Then the truck headed to Elsie Allen, Casa Grande, Healdsburg, Rancho Cotate, Analy and Windsor, collecting head coaches the same way Zsa Zsa Gabor collected nine husbands — you can never have too many.

But in this case eight football head coaching vacancies in one offseason in a small county does seem like too many. Feels awkward, uncomfortable even, as if this is a stampede to the exits of a movie theater. Attempting to connect them all to a common thread, however, is a fool’s errand. Some left because of advancing age, financial stress, family needs, while others were pushed out or knew they were a temporary bridge to a hopeful permanency.

“This is pretty crazy, never seen anything like it,” said Tom Kirkpatrick, who left Windsor after two years. You almost want to award Maria Carrillo, El Molino, Piner, St. Vincent, Petaluma and Santa Rosa for being beacons of stability because no one fled their campuses, as if this is somehow a grand accomplishment.

What these vacancies do suggest is an awkward, unsettling glimpse of the future. That the days of a head coach staying in one place for 33 years like Jason Franci did at Montgomery are becoming less and less likely, if not impossible to imagine. Drawing to a close is this simple, yet apparently ancient notion — a high school school and its football coach can feed each other so much security and contentment they can live happily ever after together.

Perspective is essential in understanding this premise. Lending such an overarching view are two veteran coaches, Kirkpatrick and Petaluma coach Rick Krist, two men who have experienced longevity. Krist has been there 28 years, the last eight as head coach. Kirkpatrick is a Healdsburg legend who spent 19 years at that school before the two at Windsor.

The reasons for the disappearance of stability are many but any explanation of this transitory state has to begin with the difficult marriage of two factors — money and hours.

At a public school the head coach and his staff are “at-will” employees, hired year-to-year. Think of that term as “at our pleasure” and now one can begin to erect the first shaky pillar of support. The money is the second pillar. Trent Herzog, recently dismissed at Casa Grande, started at $1,500 a year as an assistant and worked his way up to $4,200 annually in his 22nd and final year at the school.

“A lot of my coaches are volunteers,” Krist said. “So every year I have them all over to my house for dinner. That’s their payment.”

While his wife, Lori, is a terrific cook, the guys don’t coach for Krist because Lori makes a great enchilada.

Opposite the money are the hours spent to earn it.

“In the offseason,” Herzog said, “I worked five hours a day, five days a week. During the season it’s 10 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s 12-13 hours a week watching film.”

With those numbers, Herzog made $2.49 an hour coaching Casa Grande football last year.


Redwood Classic

Boys basketball

Wednesday through Saturday

At Anderson Valley High School, Boonville


Cloverdale vs. Laytonville 4 p.m.

Round Valley vs. Valley Christian, 5: 30 p.m.

Tomales vs. Anderson Valley, 7 p.m.


Hoopa vs. Stuart Hall, 2 p.m.

St. Elizabeth vs. Bentley 3:30 p.m.

California School for the Deaf vs. Branson, 5 p.m.

Tulelake vs. Pinewood, 6:30 p.m.

Head Royce vs. Liberty Christian, 8 p.m.


Games at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m.


Other games, 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 4:30 p.m.

Consolation winner, 6 p.m.

Third-place game, 7:30 p.m.

Championship game, 9 p.m.

Cardinal Newman Classic

Girls basketball

Thursday through Saturday

Cardinal Newman High School, Santa Rosa


Oakland High vs. Sacred Heart, 3:30 p.m.

Piedmont vs. Regis Jesuit, 5 p.m.

Cardinal Newman vs. Menlo, 6:30 p.m.

Oregon City vs. Santa Rosa High, 8 p.m.


Games at 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m.


Consolation games 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Third-place game, 3 p.m.

Championship game, 4:30 p.m.

“Most of the coaches I know end up spending more money on their players than they make,” Herzog said.

Ah, but isn’t coaching football fun?

There’s the “helicopter” parents, also known as “snowplow” parents, also known as “Here they come, coach, let’s run like hell!” parents.

“Parents now feel they have the right to come on the field and talk to the coach right after the game,” Kirkpatrick said.

True story from a Sonoma County high school football coach: A mother calls and tells the coach her son wants to play middle linebacker at USC. So why is he on the second team? Coach says two things. One, there are no 5-foot-10, 185-pound middle linebackers at USC. Second, your son is on the second team because he’s not good enough to be on the first team. The mother shouts an expletive at the coach and hangs up.

“My first four years at the Ranch I went 3-7, 0-10, 2-8, 2-8,” said Ed Conroy, who recently retired from coaching after 33 years. “If a coach today had that record, he’d probably be fired, especially if he was an off-campus coach.”

Expectations. Every high school coach anywhere in America feels the hot breath of projection on his shoulder. With rising college tuition costs, with backup infielders in Major League Baseball making $5 million a year because they can field a ground ball, some parents see their children as their meal ticket to fame and fortune.

And so their hot breath of discontent can heat up a coach or a high school administrator, to the point mom becomes a flamethrower.

“It’s great that parents want the best for their kids,” Krist said. “But they are looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Nine out of 10 times they will be disappointed.”

Ah, but isn’t coaching football fun?

“When I began coaching,” Kirkpatrick said, “there really was a coaching fraternity. We were very friendly to each other. Mick O’Meara, Steve Ellison, Jason, if we needed something, we’d help each other out. I don’t see that anymore. I see 80-point games.”

You don’t drop 80 points on a friend.

But you do if you feel you’re under pressure to keep your job because an influential parent is unhappy you’re not giving the ball enough to Sammy on offense.

Ah, but isn’t coaching football fun?

“I am loyal to Petaluma High School and I don’t want to coach anywhere else,” Krist said. “But it’s become the way our society is. People don’t feel the loyalty to a place that they once did.”

College athletes leaving early to enter the pros, the professionals changing teams for more money or to be truly “appreciated,” all of that sends a message to the family and to their athletic offspring. Keep pushing the system that can make you great. Then, after greatness is achieved, push that system to be even greater (i.e., a contract). The end result, the carrot at the end of the stick, is never eaten.

So explains the reason why some families in Sonoma County move near another school because that school gives Bruno a better change of making the NFL, or at the very least, a scholarship to play college football.

Ah, but isn’t coaching football fun? Yes, if the coach can live in a bubble. Yes, if he doesn’t need the money. Yes, if the principal is his brother-in-law. Yes, if he is single without children. Yes, if he doesn’t give a damn what people say. Yes, if he wants to climb the ladder to college and the pros. Yes, if the players are pawns for his vanity.

On the other hand…

Folks, do enjoy your team. Root your socks off. Go to a dine-and-donate.

Then sit your fanny down. Don’t do anything you would be embarrassed to explain to your kid who’s on the field. Be the adult. Give the coach a break, even if he doesn’t know a “Cover Two” from a cupcake. Your kid can still go on and play middle linebacker for the 49ers.

In the meantime, that coach very well may learn on the job, may improve and may be around like Ed Conroy for 33 years. Remember, he is working for $2.49 an hour.

Would you?

To contact Bob Padecky email him at bobpadecky@gmail.com.

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