A whirlwind five days culminated on Tuesday with former Blue Devil star running back Marc Hicks accepting the position of interim head coach of the Davis High football team.
Steve Smyte, who led the program for the past three seasons, officially stepped down Monday after making the decision during a Friday meeting with DHS Athletic Director Dennis Foster and Davis schools personnel chief Matt Best.
Once Smyte’s decision was made, Foster wanted to find a replacement as soon as possible and looked to Hicks, who had been the Devils’ associate head coach and Smyte’s right-hand man.
“That was the direction that (Friday’s) conversation went and at that point it was up to me as the AD to do what’s best for the kids, which was to move quickly,” Foster told The Enterprise on Tuesday, adding that Best, superintendent Winfred Roberson and new DHS principal Will Brown had input and gave their blessing to hire Hicks in an interim role.
“Steve had done a good job with the program for the past few years and put us in a good place,” Foster added. “My job was to find someone who could keep us moving in that direction. Marc was the head assistant so he was the No. 2 person within the program and his experience as a coach and as an athlete, and his longtime presence in the community certainly make him the best person to step in and keep the train rolling.”
About that experience …
The 47-year-old Hicks, who was inducted into the Davis High Hall of Fame last year, was a record-setting five-sport athlete for the Blue Devils, excelling as one of the best prep running backs in the nation until his graduation in 1985. He went on to play tailback at Cal — where one of his lead blockers was Roberson — and Ohio State and played briefly in the Canadian and World Football leagues before injuries forced him to give up his playing career at age 25.
But Hicks was never at a cross roads. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, give back to the children of Davis. And he’s still doing it today.
“I’ve been with the district 20 years and I’ve been coaching pretty much all of that time,” said Hicks, who remains around the schools in his day job as District Safety Coordinator.
Hicks has had two stints as DHS head JV football coach, assisted on the varsity squad for many of the past 20 seasons and helped coach all levels of baseball from Little League to varsity. He says even he can’t remember all of the teams he has lended a hand with.
For the past three seasons Hicks has been Smyte’s assistant. And despite moving into the big chair, Hicks says nothing much will change:
“I plan to follow in coach Smyte’s footsteps, keep the team together and stick with what has been working. We are going to keep the offense and the philosophy of integrity, which is all a lot of these kids know.”
Both Hicks and Foster expect the entire staff to stay on, including Ty Brown, who would remain as defensive coordinator and become the assistant head coach. The coaches met Tuesday night with Hicks planning to get confirmation from all of his assistants — each of whom played for Hicks at one point — then to “go over what we plan to do and how we can continue what coach Smyte was doing.”
Smyte took over in May 2010 and saw his Blue Devil teams’ records improve from 1-9 to 2-7 to 5-5 in a 2012 campaign that nearly earned DHS a postseason spot.
And while he plans to keep building the program in Smyte’s model, Hicks also recognizes what he has learned from the legendary Devil coaches he played for as well:
“For me, it all started with coach (Dave) Whitmire and coach (Bob) Johnson, watching what they did and how they treated people. And I was fortunate to learn so much from coach Smyte as well. That’s why I’m going to stick with Smyte’s style and also add a little of my own.”
As far as the future, Foster said the situation will parallel what happened last fall with the DHS boys soccer team. In that case Ashley Yudin stepped down just before the 2012 season and junior varsity coach Alex Park assumed the reins on an interim basis. After the campaign, the school had an open coaching search and Park was eventually hired.
“The (2013) season will come to an end and, probably, in January or February, we will get to an interview process,” Foster said. “We want to have enough time to open the process up and get the best candidate possible. Certainly, it is very possible Marc will want to apply and could be hired on a permanent basis.”
One challenge Hicks will continue to face while coaching this season is his health. He has been dealing with sarcoidosis for the past 12 years, a medical condition in which inflammation occurs in the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes skin and other tissues. It’s something he has coached through for most of that time.
“I’m confident Marc is capable of doing a fine job as interim head coach,” Foster said. “I’m confident he is healthy and capable of leading the program.”
Hicks added: “It won’t affect anything. I’ve been coaching with it for these past three years, I get a little sore but my mind is sharp. I have a great family support system so I’ll be fine.”
Notes: That support system is also helping the family deal with recent bad news that Hicks’ son C.K. — who was to be a star receiver for the Devils this fall — will miss his senior season with a knee injury. … Hicks and his wife, Martha Bernauer, have two other children, Coby, 29, and Chelsea, 26. … The Blue Devils’ 2013 season opener is Aug. 30 at Yuba City.
— Reach Chris Saur at email@example.com or 530-747-8049.