Otter football coach steps aside before he starts

BRANDON — With the start of the football season less than three weeks away, the man hired to helm the Otter Valley football team has changed his mind.
OV announced in June that Mount St. Joseph Academy Assistant Principal and teacher Phil Hall would be the next head coach of the Otters following Coach Jim Hill’s decision not to return for another season.
Hall was excited about the position, telling The Brandon Reporter after his hiring was announced that it was his “dream job.”
Hall ran summer practice sessions in July and seemed to be on track to start the regular season next month.
But in a surprise announcement last week, OV Athletic Director Steve Keith said that Hall would not be taking the job after all.
“Otter Valley Head Football coach Phil Hall has stepped away from the program unable to continue as head coach due to job responsibilities at his professional place of employment,” Keith wrote in a press release. “We are currently moving ahead confidently with our remaining coaching staff in place and look forward to a great 2017 football season.”
Within days of accepting the OV head coaching job, Hall was tapped to be the assistant principal at MSJ. In an interview Tuesday, Hall said he gave it a month to see if he could juggle his responsibilities.
“After I got the promotion, they changed the entire structure of Catholic schools in Rutland,” he said. “I went from being an assistant principal with a dedicated principal to having a principal with two schools, so my responsibilities got jacked way up.”
Hall said even during the month of July when school wasn’t in session, he wasn’t getting out of work until 8 p.m. every night.
“I decided to give it a month to see if I could work it out, but it just got crazier and crazier,” he said. “To not do (the OV coaching job) was the best thing for all three parties. My motto is, ‘It’s never too late to do the right thing.’”
In an interview on Monday, Keith agreed that Hall’s MSJ responsibilities were too time-consuming to make the necessary commitment to the Otter football program.
“We thought the timeframe was going to work out and that Phil would be committed to us,” Keith said. “But once we started getting ready for fall, between his other responsibilities at MSJ, Phil felt he wasn’t going to honor his commitment to the level that the program deserved. It was unfortunate timing, we both know that.”
Keith said OV would not be looking elsewhere for a new head coach, but rather within the current coaching staff. There are four veteran coaches returning to OV this fall: Offensive Coordinator Chas Hall, Line Coach Kipp Denis, Junior Varsity Head Coach Derek Bassette, and JV Assistant Coach James Helak. All four have been involved with OV football for a number of years and helped guide the program to the last three consecutive Division III championship games under Coach Jim Hill, winning the 2015 D-III State Championship.
A new assistant varsity coach, Jordan Tolar, has also been hired.
“Our staff is set with these guys,” Keith said. “We’re going to go with the guys we have here. We’ll reorganize, but they are all coming back. They are very talented and they’ve done a tremendous job.”
Keith said once OV Principal Jim Avery is back this week from vacation, the new coaching titles would be announced.
“None of them have any interest in seeing the program change and are committed to maintaining the level of success we’ve had in recent years,” he said. “They’re comfortable with where they’re at. They certainly know what it takes to get there and get the same outcomes.”
As for Hall, he acknowledged that the timing was terrible, but he said OV football will do just fine without him.
“Ultimately, I think they’re better off,” he said. “I’ve been in programs where the head guy is in and out and that’s no good. We are so challenged in 2017 trying to keep young people committed to something, and when the guy at the top isn’t fully committed, that’s dangerous.”

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