Henigan’s departure for Denton Ryan really no surprise

02/17/2014 1:28 PM

02/17/2014 1:29 PM

Maybe you were shocked in the middle of last week when you learned Grapevine head football coach Dave Henigan accepted the head coaching assignment at Denton Ryan.

Maybe you wondered aloud to yourself and friends, “how does a guy who wins only four games in his last two years manage to get a job at a perennial power like Ryan?”

Well, if you know Henigan’s history, you’d understand. He was the offensive coordinator at Denton Ryan in the early 2000s when Joey Florence started to build the state football power. Henigan helped coach that program to two state championship games and won one of them in 2002.

When Florence decided to step down and become the Denton ISD athletic director, Henigan became the primary target. His stints at Corsicana and Grapevine could be considered seasoning to prepare for this primetime job.

Now, it’s his. He started his new job on Monday. Grapevine has to find his successor. That likely will have to wait until the new executive athletic director is named. That should be Feb. 24.

“Denton Ryan’s a special place,” Henigan said. “It’s one of the top 10 jobs in the state of Texas. I’m very fortunate to be in this position.”

Henigan’s five seasons at Grapevine didn’t wow anyone. He went 21-31 and took the Mustangs to the playoffs twice (2009 and 2011). But look closer, and he had a major challenge. School enrollment numbers continued to dwindle to the point where Grapevine dropped back to a 5A school (4A by old alignment standards).

Talent on the football roster was pretty spotty. The program struggled to find that consistent quarterback who could make a difference. Plus, there just wasn’t enough on the offensive and defense lines where Grapevine could compete week in and week out.

Now, I realize Grapevine football fans will bristle after reading that last part. The last two years have not been a lot of fun. However, Henigan is leaving the program in a better position than where he found it.

There does seem to be better structure within the feeder programs. Underclassmen in the sub-varsity programs were kept there for experience and to learn the game instead of being thrown into the varsity game when they weren’t ready.

Plus, Henigan’s successor just got a gift in a district with four Fort Worth ISD schools (Eastern Hills, Carter-Riverside, Polytechnic and Dunbar). He should find a way to get this team into the playoffs for the next two seasons.

“It was a tough decision, because I love Grapevine,” Henigan said. “I met with the players the afternoon of the Denton school board meeting. It wasn’t an easy thing. But those kids are resilient. I believe we left the program in a good situation. The program is set up to succeed.”

If this was merely about records, Henigan probably would still be at Grapevine. This is about relationships. Florence and Henigan have a history. Henigan knows the community, the demographics and how to maintain what has been established. That includes the coaching staff. Henigan is trying to convince defensive coordinator David Thomas to stay.

But he won’t be a stranger to our coverage area. He’ll share the same athletic district with the Keller and Northwest schools for the next two years.

Henigan said he had no concerns about the GCISD’s search for a new executive athletic director and what that meant for his future.

With any program, it’s going to be about players. Although Denton Ryan lost a lot from its 2013 Class 5A Division II Region I finalist team, things are set up to where the participation numbers are good and a new group of those wanting to carry on the tradition is in place.

Knowing what you know now, you may now ask yourself, “How could he not go?”

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