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Lebanon hires coaching champ
Dec 21, 2012 12:00 am
By Jared Felkins
Director of Content
After going 1-9 last season, Lebanon High School Athletic Director Darian Brown faced a challenge in replacing embattled former head football coach Troy Crane.
That challenge was met Wednesday with Brown’s announcement longtime Kentucky prep football coach Sam Harp accepted an offer to coach the Blue Devils.
Brown introduced Harp to players and the media during a press conference at the field house.
“This is a new beginning and a new tradition, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Brown told players. “I told you I would bust my butt for you, and now it’s your turn.”
Harp spent the last 25 years at Danville, Ky. High School, where he tallied a 276-66 record and seven state championships in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2001 and 2003.
Harp is tied for third in Kentucky history for most state championship appearances with 10, third in state history for most state championships won with seven, and holds the third-longest winning streak in history with 42 from 1991-93.
During Harp’s stint at Danville, the team was state runner-up three times in 1998, 2004 and 2006 with 16 regional and 19 district championships. Harp holds the best career win-loss record in school history since 1912.
“I’m excited to be here,” Harp said. “There are all kinds of butterflies in my gut. I wish we could start tomorrow.
“I chose Lebanon because of Mr. Brown. I saw the love in his eyes for this place.”
About 50 players greeted Harp Wednesday, where he told them three things he expected from them every day: be on time, have a good attitude and great effort wins.
“I’m going to preach this to you a thousand times,” he said. “You’ve got to win in what we are doing out here. You win for each other, and that starts in the weight room in conditioning.”
In his 33-year career at Danville, Anderson and Calloway high schools, Harp holds a 326-106 record overall and is 82-21 in playoff games. He’s fifth on Kentucky’s all-time winning list and third among active coaches.
“We have some tough teams on our schedule,” Harp told his new team. “One was a state champion, Beech. Competition starts in the weight room. It doesn’t start the day we pass out equipment and start practicing.”
Harp said he’s unsure what style offense or defense he will run until he evaluates players. He plans to live with his daughter and four grandchildren in Hendersonville and start work Jan. 14 until his wife, who is also a Kentucky teacher, retires in August when both plan to live in Lebanon.
He told his new players what he does is “nothing magical.”
“I’m going to get the most out of you and when you feel like you can’t give any more, I’m going to get a little more. That’s the way you win.”
Brown was excited to share the news with players.
“I think you understand why I’m excited,” he said. “You should be excited. You now have someone who will push your buttons and bust your butts and take you where you’ve never been before.”
Following his talk with players, Harp shared his philosophy and some plans.
“They told me the athletes were here,” Harp said. “We have to teach them to win again. There’s got to be a buy-in all the way around. That’s not a threat. It’s an awakening. Championships are great, but we’ve got to take the steps.
“I can’t stand losing. I can’t tell you much about the championships we won, but I can tell you a lot about the losses. It eats at me. I can’t sleep at night.”
Danville is also home to Cumberland University head baseball coach Woody Hunt, who will start his 34th season with the Bulldogs overall this season. Both Harp and Hunt know one another.
Brown said in addition to Harp’s coaching responsibilities, he will teach physical education at the school and receive a regular Wilson County teacher’s salary and coaching stipend based on his experience.
“I thought it was time to retire [from Danville],” Harp said. “Twenty-five years in one place is a long time.”
Harp, 59, is originally from Frankfurt, Ky. He was named Kentucky Coach of the Year in 1986 and 1993, Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1993 and head coach of the Kentucky All-Stars in 1991. He was head coach of the Kentucky Border Bowl versus Tennessee in 2012.
Harp also is a founding father and past president of the Kentucky Coaches Association in 1994-95 and served as president of the Kentucky High School Coaches Association in 1995-96.