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Buck named interim Panther football coach

New coach expects smooth transition as he prepares for practice to start  

Chanler Buck will lead the Powell High School football team this fall.

PHS officials announced last week that Buck would be the interim head football coach of the Panthers. Buck will step into the void left by the late Jim Stringer, who died July 18.

Buck will take the helm when the Panthers begin practice Aug. 18.

Powell High School Athletic Director Tim Wormald and Principal Jim Kuhn decided Buck would best ease the program into a new era while keeping the football side of things familiar to returning coaches and players.

“We wanted the coach from within the system,” Wormald said. “This would be a terrible time to hire someone coming in from the outside.”

Wormald said every assistant coach in the program was considered, and each discussed with the district what direction would be best for the team to take. He said a coaching-by-committee system was also looked at.

“But I felt that it was best to have a head coach because at the end of the day you need a chain of command and need somebody to make a decision if there’s not agreement,” Wormald said.

The 2014 season will still require a team effort.

“We thought that Chanler, as well as many of the other guys, could facilitate that input from each of the different coaches,” Wormald said. “He’s pretty skilled at listening and including the other coaches.”

Buck’s hiring was announced to a group of about 40 returning players Wednesday at assistant coach Waleryan Wisniewski’s house.

“When I made the announcement I think there was a tremendous amount of relief and hopefully joy that we were going to keep it in-house and everyone was going to keep their jobs,” Buck told the Tribune during a Friday phone interview.

All the other coaches will keep their jobs as position coaches so there will be very little transition for the kids.

“There’s a lot of weight lifted and people are ready to focus on the next thing,” he said.

Though he was given the “interim” label, Buck, 28, would like to pursue the position long-term.

“I have a history of head coaches in my family and I’ve followed athletics and been around football as long as I can remember,” said Buck, who said he always admired his head coaches and wanted the opportunity for himself someday.

“Certainly I didn’t expect it to be now and I don’t think anyone else did,” Buck said. “But I’m honored to fill Stringer’s position and I think with our coaching staff and the group of kids we’re going to be fine.”

Buck is relatively young, especially in the world of head football coaches, but Wormald said age was never a factor in the school’s hiring process.

“He has as much experience with football than anybody else at that table of assistant coaches,” Wormald said. “He has been around the game as long as any of those guys.”

Wormald said PHS will revisit the position following the conclusion of the 2014 season.

“We decided to make that an interim position because it allows for some flexibility,” Wormald said. “Certainly from what I know of Chanler at this point he would definitely be considered and would be included in that process, whatever that looks like.”

Buck said he understands the urgency in finding a coach now while leaving the door open for the future.

“After the season we can open it up and do an official process,” Buck said. “I think that’s only fair to everyone.”

Last fall Buck was a volunteer assistant for the Panthers as well as the head coach of the eighth-grade football team at Powell Middle School.

His experience at the middle school, where he operated under Stringer’s system, should help him transition to the high school level.

“The last three years I’ve been running Jim’s offense down at the middle-school level,” Buck said.

Buck is already familiar with the Panthers’ playbook and terminology, so little time will have to be invested in reteaching the language of PHS football to players. Buck also picked up some of Stringer’s coaching intangibles.

“Jim taught me probably more than he knows,” Buck said. “Just me standing back and soaking in his philosophy and how he treated kids and ran his program will certainly be carried on this year and into the future.”

While Stringer’s mark on the Panthers is permanent, Buck said he can’t be a carbon copy of the four-time state champion coach.

“This is Jim Stringer’s program but I’m still going to do what I know best,” Buck said. “I foresee some transition taking place. I see some different things happening. Not necessarily Xs and Os but in philosophy.”

Buck said he is not a placeholder and won’t coach like one.

“I certainly have things to share with individuals and the whole team,” Buck said. “The football season is a journey. I’m going to do whatever I know best and what I’ve seen in the past work well.”

Buck won’t be the only major change for the Panthers. Quarterback Hayden Cragoe will no longer be under center after two successful state title campaigns. Also lost to graduation are running back Cory Heny, defensive linemen Garrett Lynch and Zach Thompson, safety Matt Widdicombe, receiver Brendon Phister and offensive lineman Garrett Michael.

Buck attended Utah State, where he redshirted in 2004 and played in 2005 and 2006. He transferred to Carroll College in  Helena, Mont., where he was an outside linebacker for the 2007 NAIA national championship team. He graduated in 2008, was a student assistant before becoming a part-time linebackers coach and eventually an assistant defensive line coach at Carroll.

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