The effort to find a replacement for longtime Hahnville High School head football coach Lou Valdin is underway after 14 candidates were interviewed by a selection committee earlier this week.
The successful candidate will have big shoes to fill. Valdin stepped down from the program in December after 15 seasons, including 14 playoff appearances and a state championship in 2003.
The 14 finalists were selected out of a pool of 50 applicants. Interviews took place Monday and Tuesday and brought in candidates with all levels of experience including current and former head coaches, assistants already within the Tiger football program and former professional football players.
The selection committee is made up of Hahnville High School employees, athletic directors, the district athletic director, executive director of secondary schools and a Hahnville High School faculty member. The committee will make a recommendation to the human resources department that will ultimately be decided upon at the St. Charles Parish School Board’s Feb. 19 meeting.
The new head coach will take over on March 10.
Of the finalists, two are longtime Hahnville High School assistant coaches.
John Lambert’s connection to the Hahnville football program goes back 15 years. After serving as offensive coordinator at De La Salle High School in New Orleans, Lambert was hired by Valdin’s predecessor, Scott Hildebrand, in 1999 and served as offensive coordinator at the school from 1999 until 2006, which included the program’s 2003 state championship.
During Lambert’s first stint with the Tigers, the team’s record was 81-19. Lambert thinks a large part of the team’s success during that time was due to hands-on development as part of the program’s weight training efforts.
“I ran the weight room all season long during the school year and summer and I knew every single kid. It gives you a great picture of what a kid’s strengths and weaknesses are,” he said. “We really knew what kids could do and I thought we did a good job in that period of time developing talent and getting kids better.”
In 2006, Lambert was hired to serve as athletic director and head football coach at East Ascension High School, a position he stayed in until 2011. During his four years at the helm of that program, he posted a 14-25 record and failed to reach the playoffs.
“We were making the transition from 4A into 5A and my intention was to build a program from the ground up that was ready to compete on the 5A level. We had a lot of young kids,” he said. “We didn’t have as much success as I would have liked, but in terms of academic and athletic quality I felt we got better during the four years I was there.”
In 2011, Lambert returned to Hahnville where he has served as offensive line coach in addition to head track coach.
The other in-house candidate is offensive coordinator Mike Silva.
Silva rose through the ranks with Valdin and the two coached together at Archbishop Shaw and John Ehret. Silva reunited with Valdin at Hahnville in 1999 when he was hired as quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach. After Lambert left the program in 2006, Silva became the offensive coordinator.
Silva said he has a deep connection to the Hahnville community.
“I’ve been there for 14 years and I’ve seen 14 years worth of kids come and go. I’ve made some good relationships with kids over the years and now those kids are members of the community. I love to see them come back,” he said.
Silva said that becoming head coach would allow him to pay back the community.
“I like the school and I love the kids. The community has been really good to me since I’ve been here, so it is kind of like my chance to give back to the kids and the community,” he said.
Of the candidates from outside the school district, Brett Beard has the most familiarity with St. Charles Parish Public Schools. Beard served as an assistant coach in charge of the defensive line and special teams at Destrehan High School for the 2011 and 2012 seasons before becoming head coach at Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge.
Last season, Beard led Woodlawn to a 4-7 record, which was an improvement over the 1-9 mark the team had the year before he took over. Woodlawn is Beard’s second head coaching job. His first was at Bowling Green School in Franklinton from 2007 through 2010.
Beard said he began eying the head coaching job at Hahnville years ago.
“I’ve always said, even at Destrehan, the Hahnville job is something I wanted,” he said.
If Beard were to get the position, he could envision spending the rest of his working life in the parish.
“To get to come back to St. Charles Parish would be a blessing in itself. It is really one of the top school systems in the state. They do a phenomenal job and have phenomenal leadership,” he said. “This is a job that I would love to have the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to and be there the next 25 years until they kick me out.”
Beard began his career as an assistant coach at Washington and Lee University and Grambling State University.
Out of all the candidates, Dominic Saltaformaggio has had the most success as a head coach.
Last season, Saltaformaggio led the East Jefferson Warriors to a 15-0 record that included winning the 4A state championship. During his seven years at East Jefferson, Saltaformaggio has improved the program each year. In his first year with the Warriors the team went 1-9, but every year since they have been in the playoffs. Despite his success at East Jefferson, Saltaformaggio said he is interested in the Hahnville head coaching job because it is one of the best in the state.
“I just think you have the people, administration and what you need to win a state championship,” he said. “I think you have unbelievable fan and booster support if you just look at the number of season tickets Hahnville sells every single year. Then you look at the facilities and the pool of athletes. You also have the St. Charles Parish school system, which is one of the top school systems in the state of Louisiana.
“When you combine all of those elements, it is obviously a job that is one of the premiere jobs, not only in Louisiana, but one of those premiere jobs in the south.”
Wayne Stein also has an impressive pedigree after serving as the defensive coordinator for St. Charles Catholic for the past ten years. During that time the program has won 106 games and appeared in three state championships. The school won their first state title in 2011.
A lifelong resident of the River Parishes, Stein has had other job offers but has not wanted to leave the area.
“I haven’t been a job jumper. I’ve had some chances to move on and do some other things, but I’ve always felt that the best place for me to be to eventually make the move was at St. Charles Catholic,” he said.
Stein called the Hahnville job the best in the state and said he sees it as a chance to step into an already successful program and try to make it better.
“I think a lot of those things needed for success are already in place (at Hahnville). I think that all it is going to take is someone to come in there and do something that is not a rebuilding effort, it is stepping in for a guy who has been a legend and continuing the success and take it to the next level,” he said.
Another candidate who lives near the area is Troy Borne.
Borne is currently the defensive line coach and special teams coordinator at Lutcher where he has been an assistant coach since 1998. Over that time the school has won three state championships and has gone to the playoffs 15 years in a row.
Borne said coming from such a successful program would undoubtedly help him take over as head coach.
“One of the things we talk about is building championships. I come from a winning program and I bring stability and I bring longevity,” he said.
As far as the move to Hahnville is concerned, Borne said he would look forward to becoming part of the community.
“One of the things I like about Hahnville, and always admired, is the sense of community support. When we played Hahnville, one of the things that I fell in love with was the crowds,” he said. “The number of students involved on a Friday night with the fans and the cheerleaders shows tremendous community support.”
Other interviewees for the position included head coaches, assistant coaches and those who are no longer in football.
Two of the 14 candidates are employed in class 5A District 6. Malter Scobel is head coach at Hammond High School and went 2-8 last year. Michael Baiamonte is Pontchatoula High School’s athletic director and former head coach.
A few of those interviewing for the job are former professional players. Delphfrine Lee is a former defensive back for the New York Jets and former defensive backs coach at McNeese State University. Reserve native Kerry Watkins spent one year on the practice squad for the New England Patriots before going on to play eight years as wide receiver in the Canadian Football League. He retired in 2012.
Other candidates include Eric Collins, who is head coach at Pearl River Central in Carriere, Miss., Belle Chasse head coach Clinton Harrison, John Ehret defensive backs coach Derek LaMothe and Jon Laque, who played for Louisiana Tech.