BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Foothill reached into Bakersfield's past for its new football coach — but no, it's not just-retired NFL All-Pro Joey Porter.
The Trojans have hired Jason Oliver to be their next head football coach, athletic director Scott Manzer said.
Manzer said another former area high school great, Foothill alumnus Joey Porter, also applied for the position.
"It was a tough decision," Manzer said. "We interviewed six or eight good-quality candidates and decided to go with Jason. He has a real good resume, a lot of experience and football knowledge."
Oliver, who coached at Bakersfield High from 1999-2004, said he's ready to get back on the sideline.
"I was excited, you know what I mean?" he said. "I had applied for other jobs since (leaving BHS) and didn't get them, so I tried not to be too high or too low. Just see what happens."
What happened is that Oliver, who has coached girls basketball at South High for the past two seasons, will get another chance to coach high school football after the one-time BHS star defensive back was forced out at his alma mater more than eight years ago.
"I never realized it would be this long before I got another opportunity," Oliver said. "But I don't look at it like a second chance. It's an opportunity for right now. I focus on what's in front of me, not behind me. I'm sure it will be looked at that way, but I don't."
Oliver, 41, played at Bakersfield High between 1988-1990 and at USC from 1991-94 before a serious car accident derailed his playing career. He coached at Montclair Prep in Southern California before becoming an assistant to Tim Hartnett at BHS in 1999. Oliver rose to the position of offensive coordiantor in 2000 and helped the Drillers to an undefeated season and Central Section championship in 2001.
The following year, he became the head coach at BHS, but his tenure was something of a disappointment at a school with a long history of big success: Oliver went 16-17 and won the 2003 Southeast Yosemite League but finished under .500 each of the other two years and was forced to resign in Dec. 2004.
"I was disappointed with how it ended," he said. "I thought I put in solid work and in a couple of years I was building to something. I didn't win enough games, but behind the scenes, I thought I reached some of the boys. To me, it was a great experience. It wasn't negative at all."
Oliver said off-the-field lessons will be central to his philosophy at Foothill, too.
"I just want them to understand how to work hard and learn some lessons, learn some team concepts, and really stay focused," he said. "It's about student-athletes right now, and 99.9 percent of them will end up getting jobs like the rest of us. I want them to be solid, productive citizens."
Oliver met with his new team Tuesday and said he'll begin putting together a coaching staff and learning Foothill's personnel next week.
"I like those kids," he said. "I liked being around them, and then they're Trojans, and being a USC guy, I like that. And following a guy like Ned Permenter, who's legendary, and all the alums that come out of there, I'm really excited."
Certainly an interesting choice. Oliver has the pedigree to be a successful coach, no doubt, but he also hasn't been a head coach in eight years.
First question: Why is that? Was Oliver kept off the sideline by other KHSD schools because he was the least successful coach (for a short time) in Bakersfield High's storied history?
Second question: How will Oliver do? Foothill had a good bit of success under Dennis Manning from 2005-2008, and the SEYL loses traditional powers Garces and Tehachapi in 2014, opening the door for another school to take control of the league. Could Oliver be the guy to get it done?
Third question: Are you surprised Joey Porter didn't get the nod? Oliver may have been an NFL player, too, before his draft prospects were cut short by a car accident in 1994. Hiring Porter would have made more of a splash, but Oliver has much more high school coaching experience. Is this the right move for the Trojans?