It was early in Tom Hoover’s career as the head coach at Allen Park when Jim Buttson and Bob Marten Sr. asked to be assistants on his staff.
Both had been successful head coaches for 18 years, but they had had enough. They just wanted to coach and let someone else handle the drudgery of being the head coach.
Hoover also had his “A-ha!” moment in his 18th season as a head coach.
“I had a heart attack at 18 years,” Hoover said, “and I made it to 20.”
But for Hoover, it is 20-and-out.
Hoover, 55, has resigned as head coach after a total of 30 years with the program, including 10 years as Ed Bellas’ right hand man when Hoover built a reputation as a brilliant offensive mind.
With Hoover as head coach, the Jaguars had only two losing seasons and made 17 playoff appearances while compiling a superb 171-50 record.
Hoover’s teams regularly won games in which they were not most talented team on the field.
Unlike Buttson and Marten, Hoover is not going to be an assistant coach. At least not now.
“I’m going to try some golf, then try some fishing and then go see some old friends,” he said. “Maybe I’ll take my wife out to dinner. Go up north. Take in some college games.”
Most of those things were impossible for Hoover to do for the last 20 years, because there is more to coaching than running practice and calling plays on Friday night.
“I think there’s a real misunderstanding of the amount of time that the job requires if you don’t cut any corners,” he said. “It’s your whole summer, the 14-15 hour days in the season. Saturday is film study. Sunday is film study. It’s a job I’ve chosen, I know I chose it, but …”
Now it’s time to walk away. There is an appeal to Hoover being able to teach his English and history classes and then walk out the school door at 2:40 instead of 7:30 next fall.
Unlike a lot of coaches who leave the profession, Hoover isn’t the least bit bitter.
“I still enjoy the kids and I love the fraternity of the coaches and the practices and the games,” he said. “I’m healthy. My priorities have changed a little bit after the heart attack. I have a new lease on life. I have a little different perspective.”
Hoover is a bit frustrated with some aspects of football he sees as troubling.
For instance, his quarterback missed 31/2 games last season because of bursitis in his shoulder, which was caused by overuse last winter and spring playing in all-star 7-on-7 events.
Hoover sees delusional parents sending their kids to 7-on-7s, combines and some camps expecting to earn scholarships, although college coaches pay little attention to what happens at any of those events.
“I tell them all that,” Hoover said, “and it doesn’t seem to matter.”
Now it can matter to someone else.
“It’s been football year-round for at least 20 years,” Hoover said. “I’m leaving on a good note. I beat the odds I guess. I’m going out when I’m ready.
“What’s our life expectancy? You have to pick and choose how you’re going to spend it.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.