Smith, Harp have no plans yet to leave Title Town

September 03, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

The more they coach and win, the more some people wonder just how long the competitive fires will keep burning for coaches Chuck Smith of Boyle County and Sam Harp of Danville.

Smith has won five straight state championships at Boyle and 74 of his last 77 games. Harp has won seven state championships at Danville, including three in the last four years, and ranks among the state's all-time winningest coaches with 244 victories.

They'll match wits again tonight when the Rebels host the Admirals in the annual Title Town Showdown.

Both coaches have had chances to leave here. Harp has been coaching at Danville since 1988, while Smith has been at Boyle since 1992.

Smith's son, Brandon, is a senior this year. He knows speculation has started that he might leave Boyle after this season because his son will be through playing.


"I really have not thought that much about it," said Smith, 46. "People do ask me a lot. I really enjoy coaching. I love working with the kids. There are a lot of things off the field that become headaches and drag you down. My relaxation is being on the field and dealing with the kids, trying to bring them together. That is the thing that motivates me.

"As long as I continue to love it as much as I do now, I will keep doing it. I guess at the end of this year things might change for obvious reasons. But I truly have not put a lot of thought into that."

Harp, who recently turned 51, plans to coach at least four or five more years.

"I will take a strong look at retirement when I turn 55, because that's when you can max out your state retirement with 32 or 33 years of teaching experience," Harp said. "At that point, you are basically working for nothing because you make the same money if you retire. But who knows. A lot can change in four or five years."

Smith has his certification to go into school administration and acknowledges he has thought about an administrative job.

"I have thought about a lot of things, but unless a great opportunity comes along, I'll be coaching," he said. "I really enjoy going on the field and working with kids.

"I don't know how I would do being confined to an office all day. I haven't put that much thought into it because I am having a good time doing what I am doing now. I have not decided to make any type of career change. I don't want to say never, but right now I am happy doing what I am doing."

What about the collegiate level?

Both coaches won't deny they have thought about coaching on the collegiate level.

"It's something I always thought I would enjoy where I could just work on football and not deal with the day-to-day stuff that you do as a teacher and athletics director," Harp said. "I've been working like this for 27 years. I could retire this year if I wanted. I've been doing the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day just so I could go out there for a couple of hours every day and work with those kids on football.

"It would be nice to walk into an office and all you did was football. High school coaches in Texas, Georgia and some other places do that, but that doesn't happen much in Kentucky. That's why the college level would be appealing."

Smith feels much the same way.

"I think all coaches think about that. If the right opportunity came along, who knows? I would never rule it out," Smith said.

The most consideration Harp ever gave to leaving Danville came when Hal Mumme took over at Kentucky. Harp had been offered the head coaching job at Kentucky State, his alma mater, after early success at Danville, but didn't think that was right move for him or his family.

Then when Mumme came to Kentucky in 1997, he approached Harp about joining his staff.

"He basically promised me a coaching job every year he was there," Harp said. "When he first came, he talked to me but I told him I wanted to stay until (my son) Chase graduated from Danville because he was going into his senior year.

"From that point on I would work his camps and he never failed to say he liked how I coached and my demeanor as a coach. He would always say the next staff change he had, the job was mine."

Harp never asked Mumme for a job as UK assistant coaches left, and Mumme never called. He did offer Harp a chance to be director of football operations, a job Harp declined because he said he's not a "desk guy."

"I told him if I was coming to Kentucky, it would be to be on the field and coach," Harp said. "Mumme got upset about that. He started cursing and saying stuff on the phone that wasn't real nice. I told him it probably was a good thing I was not coming there. He got pretty uptight about it."

Smith might have to check with his wife, Jackie, before making any move. If it was not for her, he probably never would have come to Boyle to start the state's most successful rebuilding process ever.

Jackie Smith did her student teaching at Boyle when he was an assistant coach at Mercer County. That introduced the Smiths to the Boyle school system.

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