WARNER ROBINS -- Before I get to the opening at Houston County, let me share a few thoughts about the coach who held the job until last week.
Due to the nature of being a high school sports writer responsible for more than 50 high schools, I don’t get a chance to spend as much time with some teams and coaches as much as I’d like.
Greg Robinson is one guy in particular that I didn’t get to be around a ton. One of our correspondents Chris Deighan generally is our first responder for all things Houston County, so I didn’t get to speak with Robinson often. Robinson resigned as the head football coach at Houston County during the holidays. He has had some health issues in his family.
Robinson has been phenomenal the times I have spoken with him, from his time at Dodge County and at Houston County. I can remember covering what would have been his final regular-season game in Eastman. His Indians lost (21-7) to a young Dublin team led by Rashard Smith that finished its season at the Georgia Dome. It was a tough loss for Robinson, but he was great to talk after the game.
I’ve always believed Dodge County’s reason not to renew his contract following the 2007 season was largely because his teams didn’t fare so well against Dublin – who has? – going 1-4 against the Irish. But Robinson led Dodge County to back-to-back 9-3 seasons. Only his mentor John Peacock can match two seasons like that in Eastman, and the school has just those two instances in history where it won nine or more games in consecutive seasons. He went 36-19 with three playoff appearances in his final five seasons in Eastman; the Indians are 20-31 with one playoff appearance in the five years since. The Dodge County program does appear stabilized by Rex Hodges, one of Robinson’s former assistants.
The other memorable interaction with Robinson came following Houston County’s loss to Hardaway in 2010. The Bears started the season 4-0, but they dropped three of four heading into a road game at Hardaway. Houston County could not only stop the bleeding that night, but the Bears also needed only a win over Hardaway to make the state playoffs. His Bears lost 34-14, and I figured I would have a rather unpleasant conversation with him following the game. He was great. All coaches talk after wins. To me, it says a lot about a coach’s character when he or she makes time for you after losses. Robinson did that for me in two of the most excruciating losses of his career. He understood I had a job to do just like he did.
Although Robinson leaves Houston County on his own terms, the Bears haven’t won much since Doug Johnson retired before the 2007 season. The Bears are 18-42 since Johnson stepped down. Johnson went 100-78-1 in his 16 years at Houston County, leading the Bears to the playoffs nine times. They haven’t been since he left.
A coach once told me, “We wouldn’t keep the score if winning didn’t matter.”
Now, things are a little different in Houston County now. The opening of Veterans has without question thinned the pool of athletes in the county. Houston County and Warner Robins have suffered the brunt of that, but the Demons have recovered. This job may not be as good as it was 10 years ago – it terms of wins and losses – but it’s still an opening in a major school system that remains attractive to coaches around the state.
It’s impossible to predict specific people who may be interested in the job. The trend, however, in Houston County is to hire within Houston County. All four of the currently employed head coaches were assistants at other schools in the county: Kevin Kinsler, Northside (assistant coach at Northside), Bryan Way, Warner Robins (assistant coach at Warner Robins), David Bruce, Veterans (assistant coach at Warner Robins), Stacey Harden, Perry (assistant coach at Warner Robins). The other guys who've held the Houston County job -- Johnson and George Collins -- were both Warner Robins assistants. The two biggest names in the county's history: Robert Davis and Conrad Nix, both were former Warner Robins assistants.
If I had to guess, I’d say the trend continues. Coaches like Mark Stewart, Kevin Smith and Chad Alligood at Northside could be options. Alligood was a finalist for the Houston County job when Robinson landed it. I have no idea if any of those Northside guys would want to leave. They’ve all been very loyal to the program through the years, and any of them could have landed jobs at other places in the state. None of the Northside assistants applied for the Houston County job the last time, and none of them were in the mix at Veterans. Warner Robins offensive coordinator Bob Davis was once a head coach at Rutland. Houston County principal Michelle Masters could pick someone already at the school like Bears’ offensive coordinator Lee Pope. Pope’s offense averaged 28 points per game and scored 34 or more points in six games. West Laurens defensive coordinator Von Lassiter will likely have a shot at the job if he applies. He has both worked in the county -- he was an assistant coach at Northside -- and he has ties to Masters.
The wild cards could include guys like Dublin’s Roger Holmes or Wilcox County’s Mark Ledford, both very successful, state championship coaches who may have some interest.