View From the Press Box: Dion Clisso 1/29

Dion Clisso

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: January 29, 2013 - 11:48 AM

I don’t know if January is the official “hire your new coach” month but it starting to look that way. With Belton and Shawnee Mission North both making their decision in the last week and Truman doing the same over the holiday break, schools aren’t wasting time finding their new head coaches.
One trend that has shown so far this offseason is the hiring of smaller school coaches to fill spots at big schools. Truman tabbed Eudora’s Gregg Webb, Belton went for Farmington’s Todd Vaughn and now Shawnee Mission North has hired Chanute’s Don Simmons.
All three bring impressive resumes with them from their smaller programs. Webb won several 8-man state titles at Claflin (Kan.) before taking Eudora to back-to-back Kansas 4A title games. Now he is charged with turning around a Truman program that has a total of two district titles in its almost 50-year history.
Vaughn comes to Belton from Farmington where he had the Knights deep in the Missouri Class 4 playoffs almost every one of his six years. The Pirates have seen tough times lately but were in the Missouri Class 5 title game just a few years ago under former coach Jeff Gourley who went on to win a Kansas 6A title in 2011 at Olathe South.
Now Shawnee Mission North brings Simmons back to the Metro after a very successful run at Chanute where he had the Blue Comets in the playoffs all nine years he was the coach. Before that he had a successful run at Blue Valley North and won a Kansas 3A title at Riverton in 1990.
All three of these coaches have won a lot of games and state titles at smaller schools and are now moving to the biggest stage in the Metro. Sometimes that success translates, sometimes it doesn’t. There are many reasons for that from style of play, administration support and community involvement.
I don’t know if it is a trend but there does seem to be some differences from a few years back. When PrepsKC first started three years ago I wrote a column questioning if school districts would be limited in their search for new football coaches due to economic constraints. At the time many districts were in a hiring freeze or in the case of some like Independence, were laying-off teachers.
Quite a few jobs at that time were filled by coaches in house while others were from the outside. Not that there weren’t assistants that were qualified but if a district is limited to only what is already on staff it just means less of a number of candidates.
Whether these new hires, and others still to come like Park Hill and Eudora, are a sign of the times remains to be seen. Is this the start of a trend or a coincidence? Either way these three districts have made a statement and it will be interesting to see how each do turning around programs that have struggled over the last few years.
Dion Clisso is the Managing Editor of PrepsKC. To reach him send email to