So much for Greg Gano and Damien High School being a match made in heaven.
After seasons at the school, Gano announced Sunday that he had resigned as varsity football head coach after four seasons. The announcement was made at the team’s banquet.
“It was just time and I wish Damien a lot of luck,” Gano said. “There’s some very good people at Damien, who I will have friendships with for a long time.
“I will be coaching again before you know it.”
Gano and Damien made a big splash in early 2009 when the school hired the four-time CIF champion coach to replace former head coach Scott Morrison. Things never got off the ground, however, and Gano went 20-22 in his four seasons, making the playoffs twice but failing to win a postseason game.
The Spartans had high expectations entering this past season thanks to a veteran team and a strong offseason showing on the summer passing circuit. Damien was trounced by Orange Lutheran in its season opener, won only one Sierra League game and missed the playoffs.
The job of finding a replacement now falls on interim principal Dr. Merritt Hemenway, who began working at the school on Oct. 8. Hemenway previously spent 19 years as principal at Bishop Amat and has expressed a desire to become Damien’s principal on a full-time basis.
The school announced Monday that it has began accepting applications and will do through Jan. 7. After that, Hemenway said that a hiring committee, of which he will be a part, will begin the vetting process.
“We have some real nice facilities here, now I need to find a coach,” Hemenway said Monday afternoon. “We’re looking for the right person for the right spot.
“There’s a lot of good people here and a lot of good kids, so I’m thinking it’s not going to be too difficult to put together a good program. And we’ve got a weight room that is the best I’ve ever seen at a high school. So, that’s a big attraction.”
Gano won four CIF championships at Los Altos before resigning after the 2007 season. Prior to that, he was head coach at Northview. During his time at Damien, Gano was instrumental in setting up the new weight room and the building of coaches offices and a team room.
The on-field product never caught fire, though, like most had hoped. A big part of Gano’s success at Los Altos was that he attracted several high-impact transfers, but that didn’t happen with nearly the same volume at Damien.
As this past season wore on, there was rampant speculation that this would be Gano’s final year on the Spartans’ sideline. Damien began league play with a costly loss to Ayala and later suffered blowout losses to league champion Charter Oak and runner-up Chino Hills. The Spartans did show a glimpse of what many had foreseen in summer by beating third-place South Hills.
Aram’s take: This is a pretty disappointing situation for both sides. When Gano was hired in 2009, it looked Damien was investing in the opportunity to take its program to the next level. For whatever reason, things never got off the ground. And now you have to wonder what’s next for both sides. There have been rumors of Tom Salter leaving Upland for Damien. I don’t buy it. There have also been rumors of former Chino coach John Monger being the next coach, and that seems more plausible because I had heard that’s who Sparty wanted before it realized Gano was available back in 2009. Then, there’s another rumor that Amat assistants Mike DiFiori and/or Ealar Gallagher would be interested in the job. This one should be very interesting … as for Gano, well you can bet he’s got his name in for the Etiwanda job along with about 50 others. Other spots in the OC are also a possibility. It appears to be a long shot that Gano would resurface in the SGV because there aren’t that many high-profile jobs and the ones that are taken with guys who justifiably aren’t budging. Should be interesting to see how fast both sides move.