St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Coach back in the game

Published April 14, 2007


Bill Browning laughed and smiled his way through a number of congratulatory phone calls Friday afternoon.

Now, the new football coach at Sunlake High needs to get to work.

Like, right now.

With spring practice just two weeks away, Browning was announced as the Seahawks' first head coach Friday, rejoining the football coaching ranks he left in 2004 for family reasons.

"I definitely missed it," Browning said. "I've been wanting to get back into it."

Browning, who had applied recently for the football openings at Hernando and Pasco high schools, was chosen over five other finalists, four of them currently in the Pasco County school system.

But principal Angie Stone and athletic director Matt McDermott felt Browning was best suited to lead Sunlake uphill into football.

"And I like huge challenges," Browning said.

Browning will have to get the Seahawks ready for a varsity schedule in their first season, a daunting task but one he feels he has prepared for.

In 1987, he got his first head coaching job at Springstead, a team that was 0-10 the previous season and had an 11-year record of 30-79.

In nine seasons under Browning, the Eagles went 48-44, including a first-ever playoff appearance in 1993, where they lost to a team quarterbacked by future Tampa Bay Buc Shaun King.

Even harder was taking over Hernando's program in 1996, just months after the previous coach, the popular Mike Imhoff, was shot to death six weeks after resigning.

"It was a very unsettling time for the community," Browning said. "It was tough."

After a tough first season while the team recuperated from Imhoff's slaying, Browning led the Leopards to the second round of the state playoffs.

The Leopards made four playoff appearances in eight years under Browning, who resigned in 2004.

Browning, who stayed at the school as a physical education teacher and coached weightlifting, said the strain of scheduling coaching around the life of then-4-year-old daughter Kendall was too much.

"I could have picked her up at day care at 6 or 6:30, or at 3:30; it was really a no-brainer," said Browning, who with wife Helen also has a 26-year-old son, Brandon, a teacher at Trinity Elementary, and 22-year-old daughter, Brooke, who will graduate in May with a degree in industrial engineering.

Chip Wichmanowski, the executive director of the Pasco Schools Foundation, said Sunlake has made an excellent choice. He met Browning in 1978 at Oak Forest High School in Illinois, where Wichmanowski's father-in-law was the principal; Browning was an assistant football coach.

"For the entire 29 years I've known Bill, he's been dedicated to making kids better," Wichmanowski said. "Yes, in football you want to win games but you also want to produce student athletes that are not only competitive on the field but competitive on life. Bill does that.

"I think it's a great decision."

Browning is scheduled to meet with prospective players Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Oakstead Elementary School cafeteria.

John C. Cotey can be reached at 727 869-6261 or

[Last modified April 13, 2007, 22:41:38]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters