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Coaching search has North under the spotlight

Almost one year ago to the day, this Prep Notebook space was used to discuss North Medford's search for a head football coach and if someone with a Black Tornado background should sit atop the list of candidates.

To say that a year has now passed and that topic is back on my list of articles to write is almost inconceivable, but here we are.

To be clear, no one involved with the coaching search or how everything panned out after Nate Becksted was selected to replace Jeff Olson last February ever envisioned what would eventually transpire.

And to clarify another point, there is a lot of blame to be shared up and down the road to Becksted's eventual resignation with two weeks remaining in his first and only regular season with North Medford. The eight-month trial soured in a collective manner, not just singular.

That said, it's again time to move on and Black Tornado officials are vowing — again — to do all in their power to find the right candidate to restore the team to statewide prominence.

"We're going to work harder than we ever have," North Medford Athletic Director Tim Sam said Monday. "Last time we did it, people talked about how thorough the process was and we're going to be more thorough and find these kids the best possible person for the job. Obviously we're all more committed to that than ever."

North Medford hasn't had a winning season since 2005 and is coming off a 1-9 campaign in which the lone victory came during a 46-44 triumph over winless South Eugene. The Black Tornado allowed more points (485) than ever before and countered with only 100 points of its own — almost half coming against the Axemen.

To say the program has nowhere to go but up is an understatement. The ability to take that next step, however, will likely involve a little luck, a lot of unity and an understanding of where everything broke down the last time around.

In the days that followed Becksted's resignation, I approached Sam and asked if things would be done a little differently during the next coaching search.

"Absolutely," he said Oct. 21. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results. We'll learn from it, like we all do as adults and professionals, and we'll be better for it and we'll come out better because of it."

When asked again Monday about potential changes to the selection system, Sam didn't have any specific alterations in mind this early in the process, but there's no question everyone involved knows they'll be under an even greater microscope this time around.

"You always want to learn from whatever victories and defeats as any good coach or teacher would do," he said. "We're not really focused on what has happened but what we want to happen. What we're focusing on is getting as solid of a person with high integrity as we can. We still think North Medford football is something people want to be part of, and that's why I already have 19 applications on my desk right now."

Sam said the job opening is still posted and he expects more interest in the position once the high school football season is complete in a couple weeks. Several promising candidates who may be interested in applying for the job — or Sam may be interested in having apply — are part of the potential pool that the school hopes to have whittled down to a favorite by February.

Sam said five of the current 19 applications are repeat contenders from the last coaching search, and he won't hesitate to again contact those on his wish list that begged off last time for one reason or another.

"You've gotta bait the hook," said Sam, noting he's been sensitive to the situations of coaches still in action and will begin approaching them next week. "If you don't throw it in the water, you're not going to catch anything."

For all those unhappy that a certain coach wasn't selected last time, it begs noting that often those "dream" coaches take themselves out of the equation before the final selection process. The perfect choice is only perfect if that person is willing to join your school.

One change Sam hinted at may be in the interview committee itself, although the formation of such a group hasn't officially been discussed. The prior group was one of considerable athletic distinction and included Rod Rumrey, Larry Binney, Ron Williams, Linda Bradshaw-White, Juanita Schireman, Sam and principal Ron Beick.

The group did pre-interviews last season, then whittled down the list for seven more formal interviews. The final three were brought in again before Becksted was formally introduced as head coach on Feb. 17.

On Monday, Rumrey talked about all the time and effort that went into the last coaching search and said he had no doubt that the process would be even more thorough this time around. As one of the program's great stewards — he guided the Black Tornado to the state championship in 1993 and a runner-up showing in 2000 — Rumrey also said he has no desire to relive the events of this past season. Rumrey was the one who stepped back into the top spot in 2005 when the program was in a bind and was also the one who oversaw the offseason workouts between Olson's resignation and the hiring of Becksted.

"Especially this last year, it was very tough I know for a lot of Black Tornado faithful," he said Monday. "I had a chance to work with a lot of those kids in the weight room in the offseason and there were some awfully good kids. For them to go through this year, I really feel for them. It was just a very, very tough year for them."

While some may be concerned with the state of the Black Tornado program, Rumrey is solidly behind the team's future, which includes an outstanding freshman class.

"My opinion is there's not a better football job than North Medford High School," said Rumrey, adding he's fielded about five calls in the last few weeks from potential coaches and shared that same belief. "It's got tremendous tradition, it's football that's played in a community that loves their football, and there's just so many good things going on. I think year-in and year-out we have pretty good kids, but there are some things that have to be turned around. I think the administration at North knows what needs to happen and I think they're willing to make those changes. I think the next person that comes to North is going to have an opportunity to be successful."

While Rumrey wasn't about to put one name over another — at least publicly — there's no doubt the type of coach he hopes becomes the next Black Tornado leader.

"Without a doubt the best coaches I've ever seen or been around, they're people that really have a passion and they're really willing to put in the time with the kids," he said. "They're going to be with them in the weight room, be with them in the offseason and be with them to make sure they're doing a good job in the classroom."

Rumrey said he learned early in his career with North Medford that work ethic fostered in southern Oregon by the likes of Fred Spiegelberg and Mel Ingram, among others, and continued with the likes of Jim Nagel and Thurman Bell.

"It didn't take me long being in this conference to figure out the amount of time you need to put into it is a little different than what is happening in other conferences," said Rumrey. "When I came in, I knew our coaches had to put in time on the weekend, but I didn't understand that you probably better bring the kids in on the weekend sometimes to watch film and that your coaches don't need to work just part of Saturday or part of Sunday, they need to put in time on both days."

Anyone without such a passion and willingness to put in the time simply need not apply if the main goal is to revive the proud program. Rumrey said that those who have such traits, however, could be in for a tremendous reward — as he enjoyed during his 94-62 run with the program.

"Right now, this program's really been down so I think anybody that looks at this program is going to look at the tradition of the program and the potential of it and say there's really no place to go but up," said Rumrey. "I think it would be attractive to a lot of good coaches and I feel that this year we're probably going to have some coaches that I think are potentially very good looking into this job. You better have that work ethic and be willing to work your tail off, but there's good things there."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry