OXFORD — One season away from coaching was enough for Larry Cox.
Cox, who resigned in May after 21 seasons directing Lakota West High School’s football program and was a spectator this fall, is the new head coach at Talawanda.
The 1982 Badin graduate received unanimous school-board approval Monday night and said he’s eager to tackle the new challenge.
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“I’m really looking forward to this,” said Cox, 54. “It’s a fresh start and it’s so much fun to have so much optimism, and optimism is a force multiplier. I’m not going to lie, I got that from Colin Powell, but I really think things are going to project well.
“There’s obviously a lot of work to do. I’ve got to be able to connect through the high school, the middle school and the Talawanda bantam program. I want this to be something that everybody finds pride in and can’t wait to be a part of. It’s a nice change for me, and it’s at the right time too. Everything just sort of aligned. Everything just fit.”
Cox is replacing J.D. Vonderheide at the Brave helm. Vonderheide said he was forced out after seven seasons, going 5-35 over the last four and 17-54 overall.
Injuries played a key role in Talawanda’s 2-8 campaign this fall. Next season’s senior class has been a winner throughout most of its run through the program.
“I used my own advice that I would give players that were being recruited,” Cox said. “Listen to everybody, but in the end, go where you feel most at home and where you feel most wanted. The people at Talawanda have been fantastic.
“They’ve welcomed me and yet they’ve identified where they would like to see the football program go. There’s been a singular goal of developing a program that is sustainable and can move forward, and I feel really good about the fact that they believe I’m the guy that can do this.”
Talawanda athletic director Wes Cole said he received more than 40 resumes during the coaching search.
“I think everybody should be excited. This is a huge hire for Talawanda,” Cole said. “When the committee interviewed candidates, Coach Cox stood out. He’s had success as a head coach before and brings a winning attitude. He knows the game and he’s a huge motivator, which is something that we need.”
Cox will meet with the Brave players Tuesday, and Cole said a meet-the-coach night for community members likely will be held after Christmas break.
“I know they’re going to have the same feeling that we did as a committee,” Cole said.
Cox won 114 games at West and estimated that close to 200 of his players have gone on to play college football. He’s had four players — John Conner, Stephen Houston, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Hicks — make it to the NFL.
He started the program at West in 1997. When he resigned, Cox cited “philosophical differences” with the administration.
“Ninety-nine percent of it never ends the way you want it to, but it was time for everybody involved,” he said. “And that’s OK. That’s going to happen. That’s life … it’s finite time. My time at Lakota West was a positive thing. There’s so many good things we did there.”
Asked about West making a recent splash by hiring Colerain’s Tom Bolden as its next head coach, Cox replied, “My time at West is history at this point. I’m looking forward to my next challenge, not back at what was or where it’s going. That’s not my concern anymore. I’ve got a new concern.”
Cox, who played for Terry Malone at Badin and started coaching at his alma mater in 1983 as an assistant freshman coach, said he viewed the 2018 season as a sabbatical. He also retired from teaching at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
This fall, Cox went to nearly a dozen schools to watch practices. The goal was to pick up some new ideas while seeing if any of those coaches’ routines were similar to his.
What Cox found in his self-evaluation was that his old-school ways probably could use a little tweaking. He was particularly impressed by some of the things he watched Andy Olds do at Kings.
“I guess it’s more changing with the times,” Cox said. “Whether we want to believe it or not, as we get older, there are generational differences, and you’ve got to find different ways to connect.
“When I grew up, Terry Malone would say, ‘Run through a brick wall,’ and we just ran through it until it fell. Now kids will be like, ‘Why do I need to run through that brick wall?’ You’ve got to explain that to them and teach them to understand why and what the benefit is. You can’t look down your nose and say, ‘You do it that way because that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.’ Kids aren’t going to accept that anymore.
“As a coach, I ask a lot out of our kids and I will always meet that work ethic, but sometimes work ethic isn’t enough. We’ve got to work hard, but we can always work smarter, and I think working smarter at this point for me is more prevalent.”
Cox said the only decision he’s made about his staff is that he’ll call the offense. He said Talawanda will be multiformational with a focus on establishing the run on offense and stopping the run on defense.
“I want us to be really good football players. The scheme will take care of itself,” Cox said. “I don’t want to do a lot of things, but what we will do, we’ll do very well. When you assemble a staff, your first hires should be defensive coordinator and offensive line. I don’t know which is more important.”
He plans to be in the building in some capacity next fall, but exactly what he’ll be doing hasn’t been determined yet.
Cox conceded he won’t have the same talent level at Talawanda that he had at West, but he likes the new situation he’s entering.
“Recruiting at Lakota West had a life of its own. Now I’ll channel that energy in a different way,” Cox said. “I’ll still push it as hard as I can at Talawanda, but there’s other aspects we’re going to have to develop.
“Regardless of a kid’s talent level, it still comes down to the passion level for the game and the passion to want to get better. In the end, we’re developing student-athletes to become better people. I can’t wait to bond and mesh with these young men every single day. That’s what I enjoy more than anything.”
Cox will be introduced at halftime of Friday’s varsity home basketball game against Harrison. His debut as the Brave head coach will be at home against Preble Shawnee.
The Larry Cox File
Residence: Liberty Township
Family: Wife Jackie, daughters Madison (23) and Madelyn (21)
High School: Badin, Class of 1982
College: Bachelor’s degree in education from Miami University
Prep Coaching History: Four years as an assistant at Badin, eight years as an assistant at Hamilton, two years as head coach at Bellbrook (13-7), 21 years as head coach at Lakota West (114-103)