Darrell Piske was unanimously approved by the Tyler ISD board of trustees Monday afternoon as the new head football coach and athletic coordinator for Robert E. Lee High School.
Piske has 27 years of coaching and teaching experience, most recently at Class 3A Fairfield. In his four years with the Eagles, Piske turned around a program that had won a combined three games in the two years before he arrived. Piske led Fairfield to a 9-2 record in 2010 and undefeated regular season last year. Prior to that, he was head coach a Valley Mills, a program that had not won more than four games in a season for the previous seven years. He led Valley Mills to the state semifinals in 2006 and was a Gordon Wood Coach of the Year finalist in 2006.
Piske now takes over a Lee football team that has won a combined three games in the last two years and missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2005. Piske comes to Tyler with wife, Debbie, of 27 years and three sons, Dustin (23), Dalton (21) and Dylan (14). The new head coach and athletic coordinator said he is anxious to get started while talking with the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
TMT: What is your top priority now that you know you’ve got the job?
Piske: First I want to meet with the kids and kind of settling that down. They are all up in the air right now, which is understandable. Really meeting with them and letting them know what I expect and the expectations I am going to have for those guys; and then getting to develop a relationship with the coaches and getting to know those guys and evaluating that.
TMT: In your previous stops when you’ve turned programs around, what was the ‘key’ in those successes?
Piske: Sometimes it’s just a team chemistry, its discipline, its work ethic; it’s a lot of different factors. Every time it’s been a little bit different at both spots. Most of the time it comes down to hard work, discipline, making that goal that you have to be successful the kids’ goal also and not just what you are trying to impose upon them. That way the motivation comes from within with them instead of from someone who is blowing the whistle and hollering at them. That will be the first thing, is to figure that out; what minor thing we need to adjust to get this rolling.
TMT: Robert E. Lee wants to return to winning ways and this coaching search took three months. Why are you the man for this job?
Piske: I am going to work hard, get after it and treat people right and treat the kids right. Really I want to raise expectations. My expectations of myself are going to be higher than any fan or administrator. I set a lot of expectations high on myself and I am going to have that of the kids and the coaches and we are going to reach those expectations and we are going to start doing that Thursday.
TMT: Robert E. Lee has not thrown the ball as much as other teams in recent years. Is that something you aim to change with your offensive philosophy?
Piske: Really, I am just looking to win. Whatever we are going to have to do to do that. I‘ve got to look at the kids and the film and start studying what we do and what’s going to fit best for what we have. But if the defense gives you a chance to throw it, you want to throw it, and if it gives you the chance to run it, you want to run it. Really I want to look at the kids and analyze them and figure out where our strengths are.
TMT: How about the jump to 5A from 3A. How does that change things for you if at all?
Piske: Like I told the committee, you always get asked that question. If you are up in the college level and move down, they ask you the same question. I watched the Super Bowl last night and there were 11 guys on the field for each team, so I don’t think it really makes any difference in the ‘A’. It’s all about the relationship with kids, relationship with coaches, how you treat people and the discipline you instill and I don’t think that will be a problem.
TMT: How was this whole three-month process for you, now that it has come to a conclusion?
Piske: Really, it’s been fine. It’s just part of it. I’ll have my whole process when I hire people and it is probably different than what they’ve done. Every place is unique and you just roll with it, and if you don’t want to roll with it, pull your name out and go do something else. It’s been fine. It’s been a unique, growing experience and I’ve kind of enjoyed it.
TMT: Coaching wise, are you looking to bring in a majority of your own coaches, or looking to keep many of the guys who are already on the staff?
Piske: I will build a relationship with the guys here and figure all of that out. I may bring some and may keep some and it’s kind of up in the air and that’s the hardest part of the business right now; settling those guys families down. I am just looking for hard-working, loyal guys and we may already have some here.
TMT: The board mentioned that you were hired not only for your football success, but for Fairfield’s program success. At Lee, some sports are doing well, but many have also taken a downturn in recent years. How do you bring it all up?
Piske: Really it’s all about just getting with the coaches and getting us all on the same page. All the different sports coaches and there may be something we can all do. I know strength and conditioning is a big thing in my mind. It helps all sports, so we will look at what we’re doing there and really just pull the whole team coaches-wise and letting them know that we want track to win, we want baseball, softball, volleyball because winning just helps the attitude of the whole school.