Finally, Knight hired as head coach

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2003

LEROY -- Craig Knight did not know what to tell people when asked if he would get the head coaching job of the LeRoy-Ostrander football team. Now he does.

After a surprisingly substantial amount of time, Knight was hired March 10 as the replacement to former 31-year head coach Stan Olson to take over the Cardinal football program. Knight assisted Olson for 17 years and seemed to be a shoo-in for the head coaching job after Olson announced his retirement this fall.

"It's taken longer than I'd hoped it would take," Knight said. "Some people don't like me, but that's their problem. I'm pretty competitive, sometimes that rubs people the wrong way."

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Knight was voted into the position by a 3-2 count by fellow LeRoy-Ostrander High School board members. A majority decision was all that was needed, but until the special meeting arranged for Monday, March 10, there had not been a vote. All seven school board members must be present to vote on the hiring or firing of a board member. Knight and Dave Lunning, the board chairman, did not vote.

"People kept asking me if I was going to get it, and I didn't know if it would happen or not," Knight said. "Stranger things have happened."

LOHS advertised the head football job within the school system and Knight was the only applicant. An educator at Banfield Elementary School in Austin, Knight knew he would be met with some opposition.

"He has his supporters and he has his detractors," Olson said. "There's one way to show the people who doubt him and that's to win games and be a class act."

Big footsteps

Olson surely set the example to follow, guiding the Cardinals to the state tournament in 11 of his 31 seasons. LOHS had a winning percentage of .709 (222-91) during Olson's tenure, and Knight has been his assistant for the last 17 seasons.

"I'm not looking at making many changes because of all the success the program has had," Knight said. "We're going to keep those things intact.

"I'm pretty excited about it. It's going to be a big challenge to try and fill Stanley's shoes."


LeRoy-Ostrander athletic director Keith Anderson said that he accepted Knight's application for the job back in November but persistent deliberation by the school board prevented Knight from gaining the title until recently.

"I wanted him as coach," Anderson said. "Craig is experienced and with his background in coaching he was the obvious choice to me.

"It was a no-brainer. The program's been successful for 31 years, why would you want to change it?"

Speculation was that those opposing Knight were hopeful Russ Foster would apply for the position. Foster, the current head boys' basketball coach, has been a volunteer assistant to the football program over the past decade.

Foster has been the boys' basketball coach for the past four seasons, succeeding Knight after he was dismissed from the position for the second time. But Foster said he would rather see Knight get the job.

"Craig should have first shot at it," Foster said. "I think he definitely deserved it. They owe him at least a chance."

LOHS school board policy does not guarantee the assistant coach first shot at the head coaching position when it becomes available. Regardless, Knight seemed the obvious choice.

"People who don't like me aren't going to like me whether or not we win," Knight said. "But that's never bothered me. Hopefully I can win some of those people over."

Local opposition

Foster admitted that he was immediately interested in following up as Olson's successor, but he felt Knight had the position all but wrapped up regardless of local politics.

"Russ told me he would apply only if Craig would not," Anderson said. "But he didn't want to make it a bittersweet relationship."

Knight served as head boys' basketball coach twice until his most recent dismissal after the 1998-99 winter season. He coached for a total of 15 years and made his share of friends and enemies along the way. Foster was an assistant to Knight in the boys' basketball program.

"We all have our detractors," Olson said. "I think Craig deserves this. This was an opportunity he wanted and he deserves it, and I'm happy for him.

"I stayed out of it, I made my thoughts known early. My statement was that someone on the staff should get the position. Craig and I have been through so many games together, thankfully more winning games, and I think this will make for a smooth transition."

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at