The year was 2002 and Romeo needed a head football coach.
Curt Rienas and Jason Couch were assistant coaches there and were two of the three finalists. When the other finalist dropped out, Couch and Rienas met.
“What do you think?” Couch asked Rienas. “What’s your vision?”
Couch listed and then gave Rienas his vision.
Neither one is sure who said it first, but one of them said: “How about doing this together?”
Romeo football hasn’t been the same since.
Rienas and Couch became the first co-coaches in playoff history to win a state championship today when their Bulldogs upset Detroit Cass Tech, 41-27, in Ford Field.
The two met when Rienas joined the Romeo varsity as a sophomore and Couch was a senior.
“He was the captain, the leader of our team,” Rienas said. “He was kind of spiritual leader of the group. He kind of took me under his wing when I was the young guy that everybody wanted to see if he was really ready for this or not.”
Rienas was ready and together they helped the Bulldogs win a regional title and advance to the semifinals. It was the furthest any Romeo team had been . . . until this Romeo team. Their Romeo team.
The friendship grew from there. After college they returned to coach as assistants, but their idea of co-coaches wasn’t welcomed with open arms.
Everyone athletic director Greg Brynaert asked about having co-coaches advised him against it. Even when he agreed to it, Brynaert told them the first time he saw one of them point the finger at the other he was pulling the plug.
He is still waiting for the first finger to be pointed.
Couch runs the offense and Rienas runs the defense and they are sounding boards for each other.
The Couch-Rienas relationship is like a marriage . . . except better. There is no bickering.
“Seriously, there’s none; I’m dead serious,” Couch said. “We communicate all the time. My wife jokes about how we talk more than her and I do because that’s what you have to do. It’s like any relationship, you’ve got to have communication.”
Actually, it’s better than a marriage. Each of their wives refers to the other coach as her husband’s “girlfriend.”
There are no harsh words between the two. The worst it gets is when one poses a question.
“There’s probably things, like in a marriage, where you ask: ‘Are you sure?’ ‘’ Rienas said. “But whenever you have open dialogue you’re going to end up with the best answer at the end. You might not initially agree, but when you have the same mission, you’re on the same page anyway.”
The mission here has always been the same: a state championship.
This week the two have received text messages and e-mails from guys who played for them in 2003 and remembered Couch’s opening remarks as a co-coach.
Couch told them that Sterling Heights Stevenson had played in the state championship game and so had Utica Eisenhower. Then he asked the players a question:
“Why can’t Romeo? Let’s do this.”
Well, they did it and Couch and Rienas did it together.
The key is their egos don’t get in the way of what is best for the team.
“There’s no egos,” Couch said. “I don’t care about the title, I really don’t. I’m just proud to be a Bulldog and I love every minute about this.”
Before they left Ford Field they talked about returning to the school where their seniors will take the annual “senior walk.”
The underclassmen make a tunnel and the players walk through it.
This senior walk will be different in one not-so-little way.
“We always said: ‘The last game, you end sad . . . unless,” Couch said. “And here we are.”
Here they are together.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.