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Plenty of grins greet new coach

Community rolls out a warm welcome for Pirates coach Tom McHugh, hired last month.

By IZZY GOULD
Published February 14, 2007


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DADE CITY - If you haven't been to downtown Dade City lately, there have been some changes.

The nice ladies and great aromas of the Coffee Mug have moved across the street, steps from the historic courthouse. Around the corner is a new Beef O'Brady's plush with Samsung flatscreen TVs and enough seats for the Pasco football team and some fans.

This was the spot Monday night where Pasco's new coach shook hands with Dade City.

Pirates fans crowded the new Beef's for the first of what they hope is many celebrations over drinks and wings.

This wasn't simply a welcome party for Tom McHugh, it marked a new beginning for Pasco football.

The new booster club held its first official meeting and elected board members. Some players came by for the free wings and to support the new guy. Even some of McHugh's new coaching staff was present.

McHugh head coach/defensive coordinator tapped Brad Starling (offensive coordinator), Ricky Giles (offensive/defensive line), Norman Graham (running backs/defensive backs) and Josh Borders (special teams) to fill out his staff.

Why them? He has known Giles about 20 years. Borders comes from Pasco Middle and can help bridge the pipeline from middle to high school.

"It's a philosophy thing," McHugh said. "We still haven't done Xs and Os, but the philosophy's there. Personality wise it all clicked."

McHugh wore a suit, red button down, and red and black tie - the same colors the Pirates wear Friday nights. He held the hand of his wife, Susan, and stood by their three daughters.

The celebration was clad with Pirates cheerleaders, principal Pat Reedy, athletic director Jim Ward and other coaches, faculty and community members.

There wasn't a frown in the whole place.

McHugh felt a bit overwhelmed. After all, the man lived here in relative anonymity for 20 years. Now some consider him as important as the mayor.

Even after he was hired Jan. 24, McHugh never truly understood the Pasco mystique until Monday.

"I just never was in the middle of it," he said. "You don't know what it's like when you're on the outside."

McHugh is preparing for spring football. He makes a 30-minute drive to Pasco every afternoon to conduct an offseason conditioning program, which includes weightlifting and running. So far he has about 30 guys participating after close to 60 scribbled their names on a signup sheet during their first meeting. He expects another 20 or so to join from the middle school.

McHugh also studies game tapes, scouting his kids, trying to put names with numbers and to figure out who does what well.

Where did he get those tapes? Outgoing coach Dale Caparaso offered them up.

"I talked to him for about 20 minutes," McHugh said of Caparaso. "He's very gracious and open. Anything you want or need just knock on the door, 'Here's the films. Here's the TV.' I couldn't have asked for anything more."

There were plenty of smiles and lots of optimism Monday as Dade City cheered the new coach. How long the good vibes stick around is anyone's guess.

As long as McHugh can deliver a few W's to start, this looks like it might last.

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4619.

[Last modified February 13, 2007, 23:15:50]


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