New LHS coach follows Hunt from Danville to Lebanon
It's not uncommon for communities to have a sister town in another state or even a foreign country.
Lebanon has forged sporting bonds with Danville, Ky.
One Danville native son, Woody Hunt, has become a Lebanon legend with his three-plus decades of work in making Cumberland baseball one of the premier small-college programs in the land. Another, Steve Green, a Danville High graduate, became a three-time baseball All-American at CU and is now a longtime Lebanon motorcycle officer. Hunt said there are a couple of other Danvillians who also played for Cumberland back in the junior-college days, one of whom is the father of Denver Broncos tight end Jacob Tammie, who played at Boyle County High, from where Hunt graduated in 1968.
Sam Harp is the latest to follow the Danville-to-Lebanon pipeline. Only instead of Cumberland Square, this Kentucky high school football coaching legend is bound for the new Lebanon High School to rebuild the Blue Devils.
His hiring is a departure from the pattern LHS has followed for at least three generations, if not longer, in picking head coaches. Usually, an LHS assistant is promoted or someone with a promising future, often with a past Blue Devil connection.
There have been exceptions. Mark Medley, Lebanon's winningest coach with 64 in seven seasons, had a short, but impressive, body of work when he was hired in 1987: Two appearances in the Clinic Bowl [then the state championship game] in two seasons at Gordonsville with one championship. But even he followed the old pattern; he had coached the old Wilson County middle school co-op team.
Lebanon tried again a little over a decade ago when they had Trousdale County's Clint Satterfield signed. As it turned out, the Yellow Jacket legend was not sealed or delivered. When his son, who was Trousdale's quarterback, found out, he made it clear in no uncertain terms he dreamed of playing for his father, for the Trousdale County Yellow Jackets, not the Lebanon Blue Devils. Clint Satterfield stayed in Hartsville and added to his resume before moving into the schools director's chair.
Sam Harp has 326 wins, including 276 at Danville, and seven Kentucky state championships. It takes years to build that kind of resume, and typical Lebanon coaching hires are too young to have that kind of background coming in and never stayed long enough to put up those type of numbers at LHS. At 59, he is easily the oldest head football coach Lebanon has had to my knowledge dating back over 50 years at least, and probably to the World War II era.
Though some people spend their entire careers coaching, the profession is generally a young person's game. That's especially been true for LHS football. Woody Hunt came to Cumberland as a young man and, at age 62, will begin his 32nd season in the spring.
But if you're from Kentucky, you know who Sam Harp is.
"He's got a tremendous reputation up there," Hunt told me a couple of nights ago. "I've followed his career a little bit. He's a great coach.
"He's going to be what Lebanon needs. It may take some time. I don't know how Lebanon got him."
The answer lies, at least in part, with another son of the Bluegrass State. LHS athletic director Darian Brown graduated from Franklin-Simpson County High, between Nashville and Bowling Green, and has relatives in other parts of the commonwealth. But being from Kentucky, he knew Sam Harp's reputation. In recent weeks, he got to know him personally.
"If you're from Kentucky, you knew who Coach Harp was," Brown said Thursday. "There were a lot of people I could call to talk about him."
As it turns out, he didn't have to make all of those calls long distance.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org