Same staffers, different address

Pasco's Sunlake has a bevy of former Leopards at the helm.

Published May 15, 2007

LAND O'LAKES - Think of it as an unplanned Hernando High reunion.

Former Leopards coach Bill Browning has taken over the fledgling Sunlake football program, accumulating staffers all with some Hernando connection.

"It wasn't a goal to get former Hernando guys together, " said Seahawks athletic director Matt McDermott, who also will be the team's co-defensive coordinator with Matt Smith. "I wanted to get a cohesive staff together, and it just happened that (they're from Hernando)."

Browning, who resigned in 2004 after eight years with the Leopards, brings in his Hernando successor, Smith. Smith was fired in the winter after Hernando won a combined seven games in three years. Browning said Smith's Hernando experience helped but wasn't the deciding factor.

"It works well because I've spent so much time coaching the coaches that they know what I want well, " Browning said. "It's very helpful to have the guys around to know the system."

Browning also is bringing in another former assistant, Jim Bragg, and his son, Brandon, a former Leopards quarterback.

McDermott agrees that having a Hernando crew was not the original plan.

"(Browning) expressed his ideas of people he wanted to bring on staff, but he was also open to my ideas. We discussed all the guys we wanted, " McDermott said. "But (Smith) was both our idea to bring aboard."

McDermott said Smith was a finalist for head coach, but Smith said there was no way he could have turned down Browning.

"Any time I have the opportunity to work for someone as good as Coach Browning, I've got to take that chance, " said Smith, whom Browning coached for one year at Springstead. "It's now our job to coach these kids, and they're very eager to learn, just as we are to get started.

"We've worked together for nine years and we've had a great relationship on the field and off it. We had an opportunity to come down here (to Sunlake) and coach at a brand new school, and that's exciting because everything the kids learn will be what we teach them."

McDermott, coming over from Zephyrhills, knows he has put together a good football staff.

"I think all of us (coaches) come from winning traditions and will try to put together a winning program, " McDermott said. "We all know each other well from coaching, and it'll work well because we all have that common goal, and that's to win."

Browning said he and Smith both know Hernando wasn't the key in the hiring - it was getting coaches who were good at what they do.

"I don't know if it has to come from Hernando, but any time you get a coaching staff that has worked together ...if you don't have that, you're coaching the coaches and coaching the kids at the same time, " Smith said. "This way, everyone knows what everyone is talking about."