Spalding could be looking for new coach once again

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Having recently lost boys lacrosse coach Terry Mangan to a surprise resignation, Archbishop Spalding could lose its new football coach, Marty Higgins, before he's even coached a game.

Mangan resigned after turning around the Cavaliers from a 1-12 to a 7-6 team in two seasons. He decided to return to his hometown of Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., to work on his master's degree in guidance counseling.

Higgins replaced Greg Fuhrman, who resigned after two seasons and an overall 2-17-1 record. And now he is expected to tell athletic director Domemic Pachence tomorrow if he's staying at the Severn parochial school.

Pachence was stunned to learn Higgins apparently has looked into other football coaching positions since taking the job as head coach of the Cavaliers. Sources close to Higgins say he was first interested in becoming an assistant on the staff of new Frostburg State coach Mike McClinchey.

Higgins played three years as an inside linebacker and nose guard for McClinchey at Salisbury State before the latter moved on to Central Connecticut State in New Britain. McClinchey recently resigned at Central Connecticut to take the job at Frostburg and is well respected in the football coaching profession.

McClinchey was not in his office Friday at Central Connecticut, where he is cleaning up loose ends before moving back to Maryland and Frostburg. A player at Central Connecticut said he did not know where McClinchey could be reached. The Frostburg athletic department said likewise.

Sources say Higgins talked to his former coach about joining the staff at Frostburg. Repeated phone calls to the University of Maryland at College Park, where Higgins has been a graduate assistant, have not been returned.

When I called Pachence Thursday to confirm the rumors, the Cavaliers A.D. was shocked, to say the least.

"This is all news to me," he said.

Later, Pachence said he reached an assistant on the Maryland staff who told him, "Marty hasn't said anything to anyone here about taking a job at Frostburg."

"That made me feel better," Pachence said, "but until I talk to Marty, I can't say for sure what's going on."

Former Southwestern of Baltimore head football coach Fred Kaiss, who teaches at the North County Technology Center near Spalding, said a friend of Higgins told him Thursday that the new Cavaliers coach has applied for a teaching and head football coaching position at a northern Virginia high school.

"I can't say who the guy is, but he knows [Higgins] well and he told me that Pachence was calling all over the place Thursday," said Kaiss, who withdrew as a candidate for the Spalding position before Higgins was hired.

"The guy told me that Pachence finally got hold of Higgins late Thursday and [was] told he would let him know Monday what he was going to to do. Right after he got the job, I ran into him one night and he told me he didn't know why he accepted the Spalding job."

When asked about that Friday, Pachence said, "I know he has aspirations of coaching in college, but northern Virginia? What are the ties down there?

"The job at Frostburg, I would believe that, but a high school in Northern Virginia?"

Pachence said he expects to get a phone call from Higgins Monday, but would not say exactly why.

"I should hear something from him, definitely to the best of my knowledge first thing Monday morning," a miffed Pachence said. "I have a feeling I will get that phone call. We have exams Monday, but I've left word with our secretarial staff to page me even if I'm in an exam if [Higgins] calls me.

"This is getting crazy," he added. "This is ridiculous."

Veteran Northeast head baseball coach Harry Lentz, an assistant on the Bowie State football staff, met Higgins there. Higgins, 28, served as special teams coordinator at Bowie State in 1989 and '90 before moving to College Park as a graduate assistant.

Lentz was among those who gave a glowing recommendation on behalf of Higgins when he was applying for the Spalding job. The Northeast coach said Friday that Higgins didn't appear to be the type of coach who never stops shopping around for a better job.

"Marty never struck me as that kind of guy. I'm surprised to hear this," Lentz said. "If it's true, then I've got to ask myself, 'Why did I go to bat for him?' "

Whether Higgins leaves or not, the fact that he is apparently shopping around is unsettling and indicates bad judgment on the part of the search committee formed to find a replacement for Fuhrman.

That search committee included Pachence, Principal Barbara Schwitzer, faculty member Bert Kiesling and retired Navy assistant coach and scout Steve Belichick.

In a March 6 "Sidelines" column after Higgins had accepted the job, vowing to stay around for a while, I questioned why Belichick, who has nothing to do with Spalding, was on the committee to help make such an important decision.

His questioning of candidates dwelled on the technical aspects of football.

Kaiss, who has head coaching experience while Higgins has none, withdrew because, in his words, "I thought the interview process was ridiculous. Belichick was more interested in my numbering and hole system than my coaching philosophy."

There is no doubt in my mind that Kaiss would have been a better choice because of his head coaching experience and commitment to this area.

Kaiss, now an assistant at Morgan State University in Baltimore, has coached at several county schools, teaches and lives in the county, really wanted the Spalding job and was ready to commit.

Any search committee or anyone charged with filling a high school head-coaching position needs to be sure the candidate believes in loyalty and commitment. Continuity for the sake of the kids, who only have four years to play, is pretty important in high school sports.

Pachence said he knew Higgins had higher aspirations, which makes the committee's judgment all the more questionable.

With Fuhrman leaving after only two seasons, don't you think they would have wanted to be sure his successor was going to stay for a while and not split at the first opportunity?

Once, while leaving the New York Yankees' locker room at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, I found a piece of paper on the floor. The late skipper Billy Martin had posted it for his players to read. It said, "Losers make promises. Winners make commitments."

No truer words have been said.

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