Buck’s resignation — and promotion to his new position — is set to be made official at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
“The opportunity was here,” he said of the new position. “I’m very comfortable here [in Powell], this has been a good place for us. I think I have a lot to contribute at the middle school. The timing was a little sooner than I anticipated, but it was a great opportunity for us to jump in.”
When Buck took over the Powell High School football program four seasons ago, he took over the reins of a powerhouse. The Panthers had won three consecutive state titles and were on an astounding 27-game winning streak.
But he also came into the position under the most unfortunate and tragic circumstances imaginable: The untimely death of head coach Jim Stringer, who died from a heart attack just weeks before the start of the 2014 season.
“It was very difficult,” Buck recalled. “Aside from the emotions and the other things that were going on at that time, we were coming off a tremendous high in the program with three straight state championships. I was privileged to be a part of that.”
Stepping into the interim coaching role, Buck knew that not only would he have to fill the void left by Stringer, he’d have to slowly make the job his own.
“That was a tough year,” Buck said of the 2014 season. “I had a lot of support from our staff, and that was probably the best asset I had going forward. Being a brand-new head coach and being the youngest member of the staff there was a lot of work to be done.”
Looking back on his four years, Buck said what he enjoyed most was watching kids come up through the program. As a middle school teacher, he would see kids walk in the door for the first day of sixth grade and grow into a high school athlete.
“By the time I shake their hand on Senior Night and give them a hug, it’s been a privilege to be a part of their growth,” Buck said. “We have pretty high expectations for our kids here in Powell, and we try to work along with the families and teachers and other mentors — and I think that’s pretty unique about this community and this school district is these direct lines of communication and expectations.”
Buck said the most difficult factor in becoming the athletic director was knowing he’d have to give up his coaching position.
“Football’s been a part of my life since I could walk,” Buck said, noting his father’s been a head coach for 35 years.
“It’s been maybe not what defines me, but it’s certainly been my life,” he said. “To step away from that, to not be involved in some aspect or some way in the fall ... it’s going to be a big change for me. That was a difficult move.”
Last week was especially difficult as he broke the news to his staff and his players.
“That was pretty emotional, but it was something that needed to be done sooner than later,” Buck said. “It was important to do it the right way. It’s been my life for 32 years, so it’s probably going to take some time to phase out of it. That high as a coach on game day, there’s a lot of direct feedback from the work that you’ve put forth during the season that you get on a Friday night. That’s going to be different for me now. It’s going to be a void, and it’s not going to be filled immediately.”
Buck said he doesn’t see himself being removed from football completely, and his duties as middle school AD will keep him in close proximity to the game he loves.
“I foresee myself having some kind of influence or some kind of role — whether it’s holding up the chains on the sideline, or supporting the kids from afar,” he said.
A search is now beginning to replace Buck both on the field as a coach and in the classroom as a physical education teacher at the middle school.
As for what advice he’d give to whomever becomes the next head coach, Buck would tell them to make the position their own.
“Step in there with the confidence and the expectation that this is now his program,” Buck said. “Having the confidence to take the lead, not only with the staff in the leadership role, but the kids, too. Have very clear and consistent expectations, and always have a foundation and set of core values to help lead the way in the right direction.”
It’s been a quick four years, according to Buck, and he’s had a lot of support along the way. He wanted those in the community and within the school district to know how appreciative he is for the “overwhelming support” they’ve provided him and his coaching staff.
“There were a lot of highs and lows these last four years, and the support has been nothing but good,” he said. “Good doesn’t happen without a great community. I thank them for their support.”