Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

How He'll Follow Kinnan: With Pride

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

How He'll Follow Kinnan: With Pride

Article excerpt

A couple of years ago, John Booth was talking to his wife, Christina, telling her how much he enjoyed coaching football at Valrico Bloomingdale High. He loved the school, the environment, his players and assistants -- everything.

Love, as it turned out, couldn't conquer all.

"The only place I would probably leave here for," Booth told his wife, "is Manatee."

His parents lived in Bradenton. His wife graduated from Bradenton Christian School. And, for a time, his fall Friday nights were spent wearing the Hurricane football uniform, though it experienced few grass stains. Booth was Manatee's backup quarterback, playing, as he said, "when we had the game won."

And while it's common for players to return to coach at their alma mater, Booth's next career challenge certainly isn't:

Leave behind a program with one playoff appearance in its history, take over another with 27 and five state titles.

And do it in the looming shadow of your legendary predecessor, one as big as Bradenton itself. Booth is the guy replacing The Guy. He's about to follow Sinatra to the stage.

He hopes he can make Hurricane Nation swoon as well.

That's the goal of someone who wasn't even sure he had a shot at the opening -- the school didn't get back to Booth for nearly a week.

But a Saturday phone interview with Manatee athletic director Jason Montgomery was followed by a Monday meeting at the school. And by Tuesday afternoon, the job had been extended. Booth has spent the time since then accepting congratulations from family, friends and fellow coaches, meeting with 'Canes staff and players, and taking just a couple of moments to say all the right things about following Joe Kinnan.

Booth likes to say he's not replacing him, but merely hoping to maintain the legacy of success that became synonymous with the Kinnan name.

"The focus I have," Booth said, "is the same that I had when I was at Bloomingdale."

But one thing isn't the same -- a thing dictated by human nature. Everything Booth does will be measured against what Kinnan did. …

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