Clovis News: Sports

Football coach leaves Clovis West for Texas

For the third straight year, the area's premier high school football program is searching for a head coach.

Gary Kinne stepped down after one season at Clovis West High to become athletic director and football coach at Sherman High in his home state of Texas.

Assistant coaches, parents and players were notified by Clovis West administrators Wednesday morning, though some players found out via the Internet late Tuesday.

It was thought Kinne's hiring might stabilize the program after Marty Martin was let go amid controversy in January 2008 after one season, and Jim Hartigan left after four seasons to return to coach in Southern California.

"This is not what we wanted at all," Principal Ben Drati said. "This whole thing has come as a complete surprise. Seeing the boys' faces today was hurtful enough to me [that] we don't want to make the same mistake."

Kinne told the school last week he was looking into another job and Tuesday called athletic director Joe Aiello to say he had taken it.

Clovis West has begun a nationwide search with the hope of making a hire for this season, but named Golden Eagles assistant Coby Lindsey as the interim head coach.

Drati said if a two- or three-week search is unsuccessful, Lindsey would remain the coach and a new search would be launched after the season. Lindsey, the son of Clovis Unified coordinator of co-curricular activities Dennis Lindsey, declined to comment.

"What we have to do right now is continue to reflect on the next person we hire and look into all the variables," Drati said. "We have to find out about the commitment. Is the person going to be committed to staying here? I don't know how we do that, how we measure that. But that's what we have to do."

Kinne did not return calls in response to messages left on his cell phone Wednesday.

Aiello said Kinne expressed a desire to return to Texas and be closer to family. On the Web site of the Herald Democrat newspaper in Sherman, Kinne echoed a similar sentiment.

"There's nothing like Texas high school football, and Friday nights are special, especially in the one high school towns such as Sherman," Kinne told the newspaper.

Kinne guided Clovis West to the Central Section Division I championship, going 10-3 including a 24-7 victory against Clovis East in the title game.

Drati and Aiello said they believed Kinne enjoyed working at Clovis West and never detected he was unhappy about his job or living in the Fresno area.

"Any time a candidate takes a position, it's the mind-set that they'd be here for the long haul," Aiello said. "He uprooted his family from Texas. We were pretty confident he'd stick around. We certainly wish Coach Kinne the best. But now, we've got some work to do and pretty quickly."

Kinne was well-liked by his players, said Connor Buss, who is projected to be the starting quarterback this fall as a senior.

"It's just frustrating," Buss said. "Every year, there's someone new. We have to learn a new offense, new plays. There's a new guy that you have to impress and get to know. It's not easy going through this."

In a meeting among parents, players and coaches Wednesday, many expressed concerns about how the coaching change might disrupt the upcoming season.

The season opener is Sept. 4, but players and coaches already have been meeting for voluntary summer workouts. Kinne had been taking part but was absent last week.