Northwest ISD athletic director Joel Johnson is three months into his administration and faces his first major decision.
He has to find the right fit to replace Brian Polk as the new head football coach and athletic coordinator at Northwest Byron Nelson. Effective Dec. 18, Polk is leaving Nelson to work as an assistant athletic director with the University Interscholastic League.
These are the kinds of hires that can define an athletic director. It’s going to require the kind of personality that Johnson believes can mesh perfectly with the rest of the coaches.
More importantly, the personality has to be able to make a connection with the players and sustain what Polk started in 2009. Obviously, the X’s and O’s are important. But we’re in an era of football where relationships matter more, so that those X’s and O’s can be executed effectively and efficiently.
And the new head coach needs to make himself visible. Polk became a fixture, always being seen around other sporting events. That’s what made him respected by the coaches and the Nelson community.
There’s never a good time for these types of moves. But Polk’s move reminds us that coaching is a transient industry. Coaches are here one year and gone the next. That’s just the way it works. Polk’s seven seasons were more of an exception.
As applications are being accepted through January, there are probably a couple of schools of thought that Johnson is considering. He can look for a long-time veteran in the industry who has a history of working well with other coaches.
Or Johnson could look at an up-and-coming coach who has experienced success, maybe in the lower classifications or perhaps at a Class 5A or 6A school in a non-urban area. That’s similar to Polk’s story. Polk had a good start at Van Alstyne before then-Northwest AD Susan Elza lured him to Nelson. Some younger coaches in the area who have experienced success are Burleson’s Gary McElroy, Burleson Centennial’s Kyle Geller and Fort Worth Arlington Heights’ Phil Young. Whether or not those coaches would have any interest is another story. But these are merely examples of coaches who could fit that scenario.
Finally, Johnson could go through the process and believe that keeping things internal with a promotion for Nelson offensive coordinator Byron Bode is the way to go. Bode is looking for that first break to become a head coach. He knows the ins and outs of the players, the sub-varsity programs and the feeder schools.
It’s definitely not an easy decision. An athletic director can weigh all of the pros and cons and make what he believes is the most well-informed decision. But he will still enter that hour of angst. It may come down to Johnson having to go with his instincts.
There’s a lot of time left before this process unfolds and a name is potentially brought to the Northwest ISD school board for the Jan. 28 meeting. Still, it’s pretty important the new hire process not be run into any delays. Realignment is Feb. 1.
What’s important is to give the new hire a chance to settle in with a new or holdover staff in February, use the spring to evaluate everything in the program and still have the time to set up spring football in May. No high school coach in Texas can live without it.
Polk’s legacy will never be forgotten, because he was the one who set the tone for this school to be successful in all sports. He also helped guide it through the toughest transition when it moved from Class 5A to 6A two years ago.
The new coach’s first objective should never be trying to live up to what Polk did. That’s history. He has to stay true to the philosophy that led him to even be considered for this job.
This one will be interesting to watch.
The last word
If you didn’t see it recently, Keller Central senior defensive back Phillip Frost is going to continue his football career in college at Princeton of the Ivy League. It’s a great opportunity for Frost. Keep in mind, Ivy League schools do not provide athletic scholarships. But for Frost, there are other financial aid mechanisms for him to use if need be.