The coaching search at Bracken County got a little bigger on Friday.
With the announcement of Jason Hinson’s resignation from the boys’ basketball coaching position to return to the Augusta boys’ basketball team, the Brooksville school is now searching for the next boys’ basketball coach, as well as head coaches in girls’ basketball and football.
“Obviously you don’t want three of the bigger sports opening at the same time, especially at a small school. There are limited teaching positions anyway, and sometimes you have to wait for teaching openings,” said Bracken County athletic director Daniel Fisher. “You have to have the right fit. We might have somebody for football, but it’s not the right teaching fit and we’re kind of out of luck. We’re not big enough or large enough to create positions, but sometimes we’re lucky and somebody might apply for the right job that there’s the right opening for to make it work. It’s three puzzles to try to put together at one time.”
The openings come at a tough time as the programs enter summer workouts, but others have stepped up to fill the positions in the meantime. Marsha Godman, an assistant on the Lady Bears’ staff, is leading the team through summer games, while Joey Crouch is handling the strength and conditioning workouts for the football team, according to Fisher. Somebody to lead the boys’ basketball team for the remainder of the summer schedule is expected to be appointed in the next few days.
The school hasn’t seen a lot of turnover in the boys’ basketball head coaching position in recent years. Hinson led the Polar Bears for the last four seasons, compiling a 51-70 record. Before that, Jeremy Miles was the coach for one year and Chad Persinger was the coach for five seasons before that.
Fisher says the school plans on posting the position on Monday and will be accepting applications for the next couple of weeks.
“Moving forward, we’d hopefully find a replacement with a top priority on someone to be a program builder and someone focused on fundamentals,” said Fisher.
The football position was the first to open, as coach Dave Brausch resigned in early May after two seasons with the Polar Bears. Brausch compiled a 15-8 record during his time in Brooksville, picking up the most wins in a single season and the programs first-ever playoff win during his first year. He followed Mike Sizemore’s five-year run as coach. Sizemore had the longest tenure as head football coach in the history of the program, which started in 2003, before making the move to his native Clay County.
Bracken County’s accomplishments on the football field were some of several in the athletic department the last several years. They’ve recently graduated the all-time leading scorers in both boys’ and girls’ basketball, claimed the first cross country individual regional title and the first track and field individual state title – factors that could make Bracken County an appealing destination for applicants.
“We’ve had some success lately – all of our programs have had success. In small schools the talent comes in cycles and we’ve have a good run. We don’t rebuild every year – sometimes you have to wait until talent comes around – but the programs now have talent and are not far off,” said Fisher. “Football is an excellent spot for someone motivated that would enjoy coaching football. There’s talent – the cupboard is not bare – and boys’ and girls’ basketball are in the same situation. It’s a good situation for someone to be successful. They’ll have the support of the administration – I can promise them that – to build a program the way they see fit.”
The girls’ basketball program hasn’t seen that same type of stability, however. Sam Elsbernd was an assistant on the Polar Bears’ bench before coaching the Lady Bears for two years and compiling a 20-41 record. He made the move back to boys’ basketball, taking the head coaching job at Pendleton County following five-year Wildcat coach Keaton Belcher’s departure for Ryle.
Elsbernd’s two-year stint was the longest since Patrick Kelsch, the current Robertson County boys’ coach, was in Brooksville. Kelsch coached the Lady Bears from 2008-2015. The next coach will be the fifth different coach the program has seen in the last six years.
“It’s honestly not fair to the kids in the program, the constant turmoil. We want consistency in the program. We have to find a way to fix the problem. There is talent – young talent that’ll be a good mix with our upperclassmen – for whoever takes the position. To be successful, we have to fix the problem with one and dones with coaches,” said Fisher. “Like boys, we want program builders, we want people that will take an interest in the elementary program and the middle school program. We want them to run the program itself, not just focus on high school.”
It’s a unique position Bracken County is in, with each coaching change coming for different reasons, according to Fisher. Football will be the first season coming among the three sports, with first contests across the state scheduled for August 23, but Fisher says there’s no priority on hiring for one sport over another at this point.
“Absolutely not,” said Fisher. “The girls are just as important as the boys and football is just as important as the two basketball teams.”
At this point, Bracken County is just looking for the best person for each position to help build a program.