Clovis News: Sports

Fowler's O'Brien named Edison football coach

After knocking not once, not twice, but three times, the Division I door in Central Section football as a head coach has finally opened for Jim O'Brien.

The coach who guided D-V Fowler to a 40-8 record the past four seasons has been hired at Edison, which will jump from D-II to D-I next season.

"I'm real excited to get back into D-I football," said O'Brien, who assisted at that level for 10 years at Buchanan and, recently, lasted deep into coaching searches at Clovis West and Clovis.

"Edison has a very rich football tradition, and it makes me very excited to be around the caliber of athletes that comes through the school year in and year out," he said.

While that is the general sentiment that follows the Tigers on Fresno's west side, high expectations are also attached in a community that has commonly been divided toward the program's coach, regardless of success.

The most recent examples are glaring: Ray Reyes (2002) and Tim McDonald (2009) each resigned from their positions after leading Edison to section titles.

They cited personal reasons, but it wasn't as if they were sent off with victory parades, either.

"I've been told that a few times," O'Brien said. "It's going to be a pretty big challenge, and I look forward to it.

"At Fowler, it wasn't easy for me to be accepted, either, because it was a close-knit community and I was an outsider with no head coaching experience on the varsity level. But I felt I turned the community around in my favor."

The issue of community pressure in the Tigers' program was prevalent enough that a related question was asked by a 12-person search panel to candidates, said Doug Semmen, Fresno Unified School District athletic director.

"We put that question right on the table because expectations are very high," Semmen said. "And Jimmy did a great job in answering that question.

"He's a highly intelligent individual who has an incredible grasp of football knowledge. I think he's an exceptional coach who's a tremendous fit for Edison."

The fit, Semmen said, also takes into account a no-huddle, spread offense that he believes will agree with the Tigers' personnel.

It worked at Fowler, where O'Brien also went 18-0 with four championships in the West Sequoia and Southwest Sierra leagues.

In the D-V playoffs, his Redcats placed second to Bakersfield Christian while finishing 12-1 in 2007, and were eliminated in the semifinals the past two seasons.

In contrast to McDonald, an off-campus coach for seven years at Edison, O'Brien will teach at the school.

"We definitely made that a requirement," Semmen said.

He said initially a "stack" of statewide applicants was reduced to eight. And, among the finalists, two were local and six were from outside the section.

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