Priest, who was the new school's original athletic director, will takeover the program with the goal of "setting a foundation" for success.
HORIZON WEST Before introducing the new head football coach of the Windermere Wolverines at a team meeting Wednesday afternoon, Windermere High Principal Doug Guthrie told the assembled student-athletes that "to say he is old school is an understatement."
More importantly, though, Guthrie told the Wolverines that their new head coach — Fred Priest, who formerly was the school's athletic director — has a proven track record of building and rebuilding football programs.
Priest, 64, has a career record of 87-73 as a head coach — part of a larger coaching career that has spanned four decades and included stops in Michigan, Colorado, Georgia and Florida. Here in Florida, Priest's head coaching record is an impressive 49-25 mark while coaching at Clay County High, Port St. Joe High and at nearby The First Academy.
During his previous roles as a head coach, he was named the coach of the year in his district on three different occasions.
After serving in an administrative capacity the past few years at Apopka High, Lake Nona High and, most recently, as the first athletic director at Windermere, Priest says he is excited to get back on the sideline.
“I’m really excited — I’m looking forward to doing this again," Priest said. "I missed coaching and I’m revived a little bit. I’m ready and I’m excited."
Mike Grenci will serve as athletic director for the Wolverines now that Priest has taken on this new role.
Windermere went 0-10 in its first season and notably did not score a touchdown. Despite that, Priest said that nearly 100 applicants sought out the opening at Windermere after former coach Greg Miller stepped down.
Ultimately, he and Guthrie decided the program needed someone with a vision of "setting the foundation" for years to come — something that figures to become a motto of sorts around the program.
“It starts with discipline and hard work," Priest said, laying out his priorities for building the program. "It starts with not being a selfish player and thinking about ‘what can I do for the team?’ The other thing is for the coaches to get these kids and put them in a position where they best can be successful."
So far as the coaching staff goes, Priest has retained four coaches from Miller's staff: Eric Olson, who will coach the offensive linemen and serve as assistant head coach; Keith Wood, who will be the Wolverine's defensive coordinator; Michael Lafenhagen, who will coach Windermere's outside linebackers; and Keith Babinski, who will coach inside linebackers.
New additions to the coaching staff so far include Jason Greer, Windermere High's track coach will work with wide receivers during football season, and Russell Williams, a dean at Windermere who played collegiately for Florida State and will work with the Wolverines' secondary.
Priest anticipates hiring two more coaches: a running backs coach and a quarterbacks coach. He will serve as the offensive coordinator.
During the meeting, Priest praised the team for finishing in the top-10 in the state in Class 7A for team GPA and said that is something the team can build around.
“We have smart players — we will win with smart players," Priest told the team.
Priest also laid out a detailed itinerary for the players, outlining what to expect from that day forward through the beginning of the 2018 season. He impressed upon those assembled that whatever success the program will or will not have in the coming years, it will start with them — again imploring them to be "foundation builders."
“It’s what we’ve got to do, those are the people we’ve got to be," Priest said.