Concord’s next head football coach may wear pants during a cold, late-season game.
George Kosanovich, who has famously worn shorts every day of his 44-year Delaware coaching career, is retiring at the end of the school year.
Kosanovich, who has coached at Concord since 1983, announced his retirement at the Raiders’ football banquet on Friday night. The 69-year-old is third on the state’s all-time wins list with a 255-159-11 record.
“I’ve been a very fortunate person,” Kosanovich said Tuesday night. “I’ve had nothing but great kids and great assistants. Even the administrations at the schools I’ve been at have just been outstanding toward our programs.”
Kosanovich led Concord to Division II state championships in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Three of his former players are currently in the NFL – Montell Owens (Lions), Paul Worrilow (Falcons) and Justin Brown (Steelers). Concord grads Albert Horsey (Ravens) and Javor Mills (Jaguars, Colts) also spent time in the NFL.
“Great kids, great people all the way through,” Kosanovich said. “I’ve just been a lucky, lucky person. A lot of coaches don’t get the opportunities that I’ve had.”
Kosanovich began his head coaching career at the old Wilmington High in 1972. He moved to McKean in 1979, then took over at Concord in 1983 and has been there ever since. Newark’s Butch Simpson, the state’s wins leader with 273, coached against Kosanovich many times.
“George, simply, is one of the best high school football coaches that I’ve had the chance to observe,” Simpson said. “Everything that should be done for a high school student-athlete, George provides for them. He’s enthusiastic, he’s positive.
“We’re in a position to affect and influence young people’s lives, and I’m very comfortable saying that very close to 100 percent of the people who played for George, he enriched their lives.”
Kosanovich always believed that high school coaching offers the greatest chance to impact people.
“You have more control at this level than any other,” he said. “You can have those kids be the way you want. They may change when they leave you, when they’re not around you. But you really can make them the way you want – at least we’ve been able to.”
Kosanovich grew up in Weirton, W.Va., and attended Marshall University. His roommate there, Alex Sansosti, took over as head coach at Wilmington High in 1969. Kosanovich had just spent a year as an assistant coach in Martins Ferry, Ohio, about 20 miles from his hometown.
“Alex just called me up and said, ‘Why don’t you come up here and work with me?'” Kosanovich said. “I said, ‘OK.’ So I left Ohio and came to Delaware.”
Sansosti left coaching after Wilmington won the first state playoff championship in 1971. Only two lettermen returned from that team, and Kosanovich went 3-5-2 in his first year as a head coach in 1972.
He had success at McKean, but the school had too many physical education teachers and Kosanovich had to teach at A.I. du Pont Middle School, which kept him away from his McKean players throughout the school day. So when the Concord job became available in the spring of 1983, he was happy to begin coaching the Raiders. His best years came late in his tenure.
“We had a run from 2002 to 2010,” Kosanovich said. “Just great kids. My gosh, we were loaded with great kids.”
Now, he has a strong opinion on who should be Concord’s next coach.
“I can’t see anybody else getting that job except [longtime assistant] Greg Mitchell,” Kosanovich said. “I don’t know what input I can have, but it would be a total sin to this program if the man doesn’t get the job. He’s been totally dedicated to me and the school. He’s ready.”
Kosanovich still plans to coach softball this spring, and if Mitchell is promoted he hopes to stay involved as the Raiders’ freshman coach.
Kosanovich began wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt – no matter the weather – to try to make his Wilmington High players believe it was never too cold to play. He finally made a minor concession – a coat – during a particularly frigid Division II semifinal game against Caravel in 2007.
“I still wore shorts; my legs never got cold,” Kosanovich said. “I put the coat on, and of course my assistants said the reason we lost that game was because that was the first time I ever wore a coat.”
He still wears shorts, and only adds a sweater if it’s less than 20 degrees. And he continues to operate with a simple philosophy.
“I believe in two things that we always told the kids,” Kosanovich said. “No. 1, loyalty to each other, which means you don’t talk about your teammates and you don’t talk about your coaches. That’s very important, that you understand that we’re all in this together. … No. 2, no excuses. In practice or a game, if a coach says something to you about what you’re doing, unless it’s in the form of a question, don’t open your mouth. Just listen, and do the best you can.”
Kosanovich is tied with Friends’ Bob Tattersall for the second-most games coached in Delaware with 425. St. Elizabeth’s Joe Hemphill, who announced his retirement last month, is the leader with 430.
“The whole football community has taken a hit with George and Joe Hemphill stepping down at the same time,” St. Mark’s coach John Wilson said. “… They’re such classy gentlemen. They both do it the right way.
“If a young coach didn’t have a chance to talk to them or didn’t try to reach out to those guys, shame on them,” Wilson added. “There is so much knowledge and wisdom that those guys can provide. I know they helped me tremendously after I first started.”
Concord athletic director Debbie Corrado, who also announced her retirement this week, said Kosanovich has always been ready with a helping hand.
“He’s a great, great coach, a great person,” Corrado said. “He would do anything for anybody, including the kids, his players, teachers, staff, anyone he knows. He’s that kind of guy. We all love him.”
Simpson knows time marches on, but said it was difficult to believe Kosanovich and Hemphill will no longer be patrolling the sidelines.
“I’ll miss both of those guys,” the Newark coach said. “It’s been a lifelong thing. … They’re the standard.”