When teacher cuts claimed its head football coach, Fairview found itself in the unenviable position of having to search for a replacement just two months before the 2011 season.
Meanwhile, out in Summit County, a successful veteran football coach was looking for a fresh start after 16 years at Hudson.
Last week, both parties solved their respective problems when the Fairview Park City Schools board members approved the hiring of Tom Narducci as the Warriors’ new head coach.
“As I look at it, the program here is in pretty good working order, so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch,” said Narducci last Friday afternoon. “They went 5-5 last year, and I told the kids that we’re going to build on that. We’re going to build on the foundation that’s already in place.”
That foundation was laid by three-year head coach Dave Latkovic and his coaching staff. Latkovic, who was also the throws coach for the track and field team, lost his teaching position when the district cut two English teachers.
Narducci, who just this past season was named the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division Coach of the Year, did not have his coaching contract renewed. It was a move that sent shock waves throughout Hudson, the conference and the Northeast Ohio football community in general.
Last Friday, however, the veteran coach said he felt leaving Hudson and the ensuing opportunity at Fairview came for a reason.
“I do believe in divine intervention,” Narducci said. “I really think God has a plan here for me. God has been instrumental in my life and my entire coaching career. I feel I’ve been in certain places for certain reasons. I think there’s a reason why I’m here right now.
“When you think about it, I get non-renewed in May. How many jobs are open in May that would fit the bill? They had a history opening and a head football coach opening. What are the chances that the opening was going to be in a community where I already have family living here? My wife, Patty, and I lived in Lakewood for a number of years when we first got married, so we’re familiar with the area.
“So as silly or corny as it may sound, I believe there is some divine intervention going on here, that this is where I should be right now,” he said.
Narducci has nearly 40 years of coaching experience, and has also coached at Padua, Fremont St. Joseph and Ohio University prior to taking over the Explorers’ program. He has coached 10 playoff teams during his career and comes to Fairview with a career record of 179-112-2.
He met with the team late last week after his official hiring on Tuesday night.
“I was very impressed with the kids when I met them,” Narducci said. “They were very attentive, very focused. To me, it was very uplifting. That’s a credit to the previous staff that these kids are tuned in that way.”
Narducci talked about his initial goals for the program and what he expects from his players.
“The biggest thing, obviously, is I’m big on wins and losses,” Narducci said. “That’s why we do this. We’re all competitors. But I also want young men, when they’re playing football, to have a positive experience. What I want them to do is to become better people as a result of playing football.
“I feel that football is preparing them for life, teaching them life lessons,” he said. “If they can leave here better people and better equipped to get out into the world and become good, productive citizens, good fathers, then we’ve accomplished a lot.
“But I never set the barometer on how successful a season is on how many wins we have,” Narducci said. “I gave the kids five goals the other day that we’re going to live by. One of them is ‘best season possible.’ If that’s 5-5 and we can look back and feel very gratified, or if it’s 6-4 or 8-2, then that’s fine.
“I don’t want the record to dictate their feelings about Fairview football. I want them to feel good about it when they leave,” he said.
Narducci said it was still too early to get a handle on what specific goals he’s going to shoot for with the Warrior program.
“Right now, as it is with the kids, we’re on a blind date right now,” Narducci said with a chuckle. “To put the finger on what I really like about this right now is really hard at this point. My thing right now is to not become overwhelmed or consumed with what has to be done. We’re going to take this one day at a time.
“I just met with the kids, and I really couldn’t tell you more than one or two of their names at the moment. I need to start putting a staff together, make assignments, get coordinators, get a playbook going and make sure the equipment is in good order.
“Working backwards, I’m going to make sure that come Aug. 1, we are ready to go,” he added.
Until then, Narducci wants his players to get prepared for the team’s first season as a member of the Patriot Athletic Conference. The team opens the 2011 season on Aug. 26 on the road against longtime rival Rocky River.
“We’re going to keep the weight room going this summer so that the kids are getting ready for the season,” Narducci said. “So really, all of those things are top priorities right now. It’s very hard to say that this one thing is going to be a top priority, or this is one thing we’re going to hang our hats on.
“I just don’t know enough about things here. I don’t have a good feel for it yet. But I don’t believe I need to come in here and make sweeping changes,” he said. “The big thing for the kids this summer is that they’re got to lift and they’ve got to run. I know the trainer here has a pretty good program going for them, so that will continue.”
One of the things Narducci plans on doing is building team unity prior to the season.
“On Aug. 1, we will start practice, but before that we’re going to have what I call a unity camp,” he said. “I’m going to bring in a motivational speaker and have some team activities where the sophomore, juniors and seniors all feel like they’re a part of the team.
“Yes, you may have different roles, but things like hazing will not be allowed. I want that star football player to know that he’s just as important as that last player on the team. And I want that last player to know the same thing, that’s he’s just as important as the star player. We’re going to try to build that type of unity, that type of camaraderie within the program,” said.
While the task of preparing for the season on short notice seemed daunting, Narducci was confident things would get done.
“I don’t know much about the conference right now,” Narducci said. “It’s all new to me, and it’s going to be a new experience for the kids as well. But I do know one thing. I know that as of today, there are 78 days until we play Rocky River, and we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then.
“And we’ll get it done,” he concluded.