Friday, December 08, 2006

The best coaching job I've ever seen

It's rare that I talk about work issues on here, and that's probably not surprising. First, I'd rather not think about work when I'm not actually at work; secondly, some folks have lost their jobs over things they wrote about work on personal blogs.

But this is an exception, since it really doesn't deal with our company per se. Instead, it's about perhaps the best long-term coaching job I've ever witnessed.

Osbourn High School, the lone high school in the independent city of Manassas, Va., will play Chantilly H.S. tomorrow for Virginia's Group AAA, Division 6 state title. Basically, it's the biggest of the big schools (and whether you need to give out six state titles is another question entirely).

When I first moved to Virginia in late 2000, Osbourn's football team was in a sad state. Actually, that's probably not putting it bluntly enough - they were awful. One of my early assignments here was to cover one of their games in Loudoun County. Osbourn (remember, they're Group AAA) lost to a first-year, Group AA school. (In fairness, that school, Stone Bridge, has turned into a solid Group AAA program.)

Coaches, literally, came and went on a yearly basis. They brought in one guy who had made a career out of turning around programs; he resigned in frustration after one season.

And needless to say, he didn't turn around the program.

The coaching parade continued, when the school made the most curious choice of all. They hired a guy named Steve Schultze, an Osbourn grad who had never played football in high school or college. But he had experience coaching football in the aforementioned Loudoun County, where he worked before he was hired at Osbourn.

So a guy with no playing experience comes in and takes over a program mired in losses? Yeah, that'll work out.

And, well, it did. During Schultze's first year, he and his team ended their 32-game losing streak.

Yes, 32 games. More than three consecutive seasons without a win.

And Osbourn kept getting a little better and a little better. They'd have more and more kids who deserved postseason honors - more and more kids who were real players.

Suddenly last year, the Eagles made their move. I can't remember for certain, but they had a one-loss or an undefeated regular season, I'm not sure which. What I do know is that they advanced to the regional finals, where they lost to resident powerhouse C.D. Hylton.

This year, Hylton missed the postseason by thismuch. Osbourn went undefeated and won the regional title. In the state semifinals, they pulled out a late-game win over Salem-Va. Beach, and the turnaround was complete.

But let's be honest, state title runs don't happen without at least one stud. And Osbourn has that in QB Brandon Hogan. He's a dual-threat quarterback who has committed to West Virginia; this season, he's got 2,235 yards passing and 29 passing touchdowns to go along with 1,582 yards rushing and 23 rushing TDs. (Think about those numbers for a moment. They are mind-boggling. Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer lead the NFL with 22 passing TDs; LaDainian Tomlinson leads the league with 23 rushing TDs, and he's having a monster season.)

Now they're a game away from a state title. Unreal.

If you'd have told me that five years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Lots of other folks would have too.

It's a turnaround for the ages.

1 comment:

P.J. said...

It's always nice to hear feel-good stories like that.