May 29, 2016

Partly sunny

H.S. Football: Avon Lake needs coach after Larry Laird leaves for Strongsville

Dave Dlugosz

Dave Dlugosz

Larry Laird

Larry Laird

AVON LAKE — The Shoremen are looking for a football coach for the second time in two seasons.

Larry Laird will leave Avon Lake after one year as head coach to take the same position at Strongsville, pending approval of Strongsville’s board of education.

The Shoremen finished 8-3 in 2013 and lost to No. 1 seed Highland 28-21 in the Division II Region 2 quarterfinals.

Laird did not return calls seeking comment.

“This isn’t a panic-button situation, we’re losing one coach,” Avon Lake athletic director Tom Barone said Friday. “All of our (other) coaches are coming back. One of the key ingredients to our success is the stability and loyalty of our coaches.”

Barone said Avon Lake is required to post the position for at least a week, which it did Friday, in addition to other procedures it must follow throughout the hiring process. From there the school will field candidates and select its next coach.

While the Shoremen are not naming an interim coach for the transition period, Barone said former coach Dave Dlugosz will be the point man while the school searches for a coach.

But Barone stressed it is premature to name a successor.

“We haven’t gotten to that point,” he said. “Our main conversations in the short timeframe that we’ve been dealing with have just been the importance of reassuring the kids and making sure that we’re continuing to move forward.”

Dlugosz would be more than qualified if he wanted the job. He spent 21 seasons at the helm and served as Laird’s offensive coordinator in 2013. He retired after the 2012 season with a 200-44 record, 15 playoff appearances, 18 conference championships and a
29-game winning streak from 2003-04, which included the 2003 Division II state championship and 2004 state runner-up.

Laird will replace Russ Jacques at Strongsville. Jacques resigned in February after 20 seasons with the Mustangs. He led them to 12 playoff appearances with three trips to the regional finals. Strongsville finished 5-5 last season and was a combined 6-24 the three previous.

The school received 56 applications and interviewed nine finalists, according to Strongsville athletic director Paul Moses.

“Basically Coach Laird brings a good deal of experience and experience that’s been successful over the years,” Moses said. “He was very personable and approachable, open for new ideas and also willing to commit to Strongsville.”

Moses said he expects Laird will teach in the Strongsville school district. When Laird left Medina after the 2010 season, he cited financial problems the Medina school district faced that increased the probability he would not secure a teaching position in the 2011-12 school year as a primary reason.

Laird led the Bees to a 9-3 record in his only season as coach. Medina won its first-ever playoff game, a 31-28 upset of No. 1 seed Canton McKinley in the Division I Region 2 quarterfinals.

Moses said Strongsville is not concerned that each of Laird’s three previous head coaching jobs lasted one year. He also coached Goshen High School in 1997.

“We discussed that with Larry,” Moses said. “His explanations that he gave us, and the explorations that we did, explained the situation at both places and we kind of understood what was going on. We’re looking for the long-time commitment and I firmly believe that we’re going to have that.”

Laird won two state championships as an offensive coordinator — a Division II title in 2003 with Avon Lake and a Division IV title in 2001 with Kenston. He spent nine of 10 seasons from 2003-12 as Avon Lake’s coordinator.

Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or