The first rule for first-year head coaches is: Don't follow a legend.
You can be the coach who follows the coach who followed the legend, but never be the guy who takes over for a legend.
Chris Smith understands that a rookie head coach is in a no-win situation when he takes over for a retiring legend.
For years Smith figured he would not have to worry about breaking that rule.
"I got into it just to coach," he said. "I was hoping eventually I'd be a head coach somewhere."
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Somewhere turned out to be somewhere over the rainbow -- Utica Eisenhower.
Until this fall, Eisenhower football had been the personal property of Bob Lantzy, the only coach in school history. Since the school began football in the fall of 1971, Lantzy compiled a 304-115-1 record, tying for seventh for most coaching victories in state history.
Throw in Lantzy's 20 state playoff appearances, including four trips to the state finals, and you have a bona fide legend.
"You're telling me," Smith said. "I'm just trying to keep what he built. I'm just trying to keep the wheels on the train. What can you say? He's a legend. He built the program from the start. I'm just taking the things I learned from him and trying to continue, that's all I can do. What else am I going to do?"
Smith never imagined he would be the head coach at Eisenhower, where he has been an assistant for the 14 seasons. He was the team's defensive coordinator and one of trademarks of Eisenhower football was its rugged, aggressive defense.
The Eagles ended last season in the Division 1 semifinals where they lost, 6-3, to Detroit Cass Tech. Cass turned around the next week and scored 49 points against Novi Detroit Catholic Central in winning the Division 1 championship.
Making the transition a smooth one is that Lantzy picked Smith as his successor, meaning there was no mass exodus of assistant coaches when Smith was named head coach.
"He's got a lot of great experience," Lantzy said. "He played at Michigan State. He's been in a successful program all these years and he's run the defense. And he'll have so many coaches coming back from the staff who have been at Eisenhower."
During his 14 years with the Ike varsity, Smith paid particular attention to Lantzy and the way he ran the program.
Under Lantzy the Eagles did not have one set offense it ran year after year. Lantzy adjusted the offense to suit his players' strengths.
"He's a smart football guy," Smith said. "His football knowledge is crazy."
Even if coaches know everything there is to know about football, they can fail miserably if the players don't buy into what they're selling.
That is the aspect of Lantzy's coaching that Smith most admired.
"It's how he motivates kids," Smith said. "How he motivated average players to play above and beyond what they're capable of. That's what made his a great coach to begin with.
"There's a lot of great coaches that know X's and O's and know football, but what set him apart was the way he motivated an average player. I don't think I've ever seen it and I hope I learned something about it."
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.
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More Details: Scouting the Eagles
Coach: Chris Smith, first year at Eisenhower.
What makes Eisenhower so good: There are several returnees on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Joey Zerafa will benefit from a solid offensive line and the defense could be as tough as any Ike defense in recent years.
Main man: David Curle is a returning all-state dream team selection at tackle and he could have made it on offense or defense. He is an overpowering blocker and athletic enough to play tight end. He had 42 tackles at defensive tackle last fall.