New challenge: MC grad Brian Haines coaching football at Appalachian St.
PARKERSBURG — Two decades ago Brian Haines graduated from Williamstown High School and then continued his gridiron career at Marietta College.
To say Haines eats, breathes and sleeps football is far from an understatement and now he’s doing it for Appalachian State University as the special teams coordinator and running backs coach for head man Shawn Clark.
“Athens is a good place and it was always good to me,” admitted Haines, who coached at Ohio University for 12 of the past 13 years minus a stop in 2009 as a graduate assistant at West Virginia University. “Coach (Frank) Solich was awesome to work for. We were ready to see what else was out there. I thought this was a great opportunity.
“In 2015 when I was at Ohio we played against App (a 31-29 loss in the Camellia Bowl) and I was really impressed with how hard the kids played and their fan base. I knew Shawn Clark. He was at Kent State for a few years. I got to know him through that and he’s an awesome guy. I consider him a good friend. When you have an opportunity to go work for a guy like that professionally, I didn’t think I could pass up on it and how good and established the program has been the last couple of years.”
Haines also pointed out he thinks the Mountaineers are “one of the best Group of Five schools there is and are fifth in FBS wins since 2015 behind Clemson (69-5), Alabama (66-6), Ohio State (61-7), Oklahoma (58-10) and App is 54-12.”
A successful career for the Yellowjackets turned into a dominating stint at Marietta College. When Haines left the Pioneer program, he ranked fourth in receptions and fifth in receiving yards.
During his senior campaign he played for then first-year head coach Todd Glaser, who the next season put him on staff.
“I said I’d take it. I couldn’t get paid,” added Haines, who earned his marketing degree with a minor in sports management before later getting a master’s in education from MC as well as a master’s in coaching education from Ohio. “Gene Epley, I had him for three years. He was a special man. When you talk about coach Ep there’s a group that liked him and a group that didn’t like him. The group that liked him it was the structure and they could take the criticism. He was going to make you better.
“He wasn’t going to be nice about it. He was going to be stern and do it his way. Once you stuck with it, and looking back, that was the best thing that happened to me with a guy like that and a military background who always had you under his thumb. It was because of the expectations. It didn’t matter what you were doing. You had to go out there and give it your all. Coach Ep and coach Terry Smith and coach Bernie Buttrey (at Williamstown), a lot of what I learned from them I take to work with me every day.”
Haines was hired shortly after the first of the year and said the coaching staff actually got back into the office last week.
“Our players start coming back in waves starting next week with some injured guys and it kind of trickles on down,” he said. “It’s going to take a little more than a couple weeks to get everybody in, but at least things are moving in that direction.
“I think what you hear is going to be completely changing (with COVID-19) for the next couple weeks. Once we get going as far as protocol and how many we can have in the stands, I haven’t heard anything yet, but I’m sure the administrators are working on it and I’m hoping the stands are full and we can watch a good football game.”
Like most former athletes who get into the coaching ranks, passion for the game is the reason.
That’s a fire Haines has had burning for quite a while.
“It’s just a way of life and that’s what things revolved around for me,” he admitted. “I think it’s because I like the structure. I like the organization of it and I loved competing.
“It’s time consuming. When you go to work you gain another family as far as the coaches and players go and here at Appy State that’s what we are about. It’s been a good, easy smooth transition as far as that goes.”
Also having to make changes was Haines’ own personal family — wife Mary along with daughters Blair and Quinn.
“They love Boone. There’s so much to do,” said the coach. “My youngest loves fishing and my oldest is a pretty good basketball player. That part of it has been really fun for them. Really, the hardest thing for them was with all the COVID.
“When we left the quarantine was pretty real at the time. They didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to their friends. They are actually back in Athens right now. We’re picking them up this weekend. I’ll be excited for them to get going to school and meet some more kids.”
Of course, making the transition from the Bobcats’ program to ASU had its own challenges.
The Mountaineers managed to get 11 practices in before everything was called off.
“Coach Clark hired everybody and we were rolling,” Haines added. “That was a nice thing about having an experienced team. I’m asking them where the next drill was.
“What are we doing here? That was the beauty of it and that’s kind of that atmosphere here. They are laid back, but they are going to compete.”
Guidelines concerning the COVID-19 pandemic continue to change and coaching staffs are trying to roll with the punches.
It’s definitely not easy on anyone.
“I think you kind of got to take a step back and realize and look at the big picture of things,” Haines explained. “Once we get rolling with football, I think as coaches if you didn’t have a lot of time and the kids don’t know what’s really going on that’s not any good for anybody.
“As far as the schemes go and what you can get in and what the kids can handle, I think we are just going to have to wait and see. What I love about App is what we do is who we are and it’s in our DNA. We know what we are going to do on Saturday so that’s encouraging.”
The one thing Haines likes most about his job are the positional meetings. He said it’s his biggest joy because he loves being around the players and helping to mold the young men.
Like all student-athletes, the end of the road eventually comes when the playing days are over.
Obviously, all those years ago Haines wasn’t ready for it.
“There wasn’t much I could do about that,” he said. “Again, for me, I needed the structure to go through college. We didn’t win a lot of games, but at the same time I made a lot of good friends and had a good time.
“I tell you, don’t blink. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. I think in anything, in life or in football, it’s about people. People you can trust and I’ve been very fortunate to be in those situations working with guys I can trust.”
Although Haines knows he’s in a great spot with his current job, he also realizes the life of a gridiron coach is ever changing.
“This is a crazy profession because you really don’t know what all that it’s going to hold,” Haines stressed. “You really don’t get to pick and choose sometimes what comes your way. I would love to be a head coach. If I’m not a head coach I want to be at a place like this with great players and a great staff.”
Contact Jay Bennett at email@example.com