Dustin Delaney is certain there were quite a few people thinking he was crazy when he was hired as Shawnee Mission East’s football coach May 16.
The day after Delaney, a Marion graduate, was hired, he told his players they were going to win a state championship, even though the school had only played in the semifinals once.
He told his coaching staff and the players that they would platoon, which few teams in the Kansas City-area do, even though he has only 65 sophomores, juniors and seniors.
“I think they thought I was full of it,” he said with a laugh.
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But that’s OK with Delaney, whose team will play Derby in the Class 6A title game at 1 p.m. Saturday in Topeka.
He knows what scrutiny feels like. Delaney was an assistant to Hutchinson coach Randy Dreiling from 2006-09.
“Going to Hutch, I equate it to getting a doctorate in football,” Delaney said. “You do it all year-round there. It was a great experience.”
While Delaney and Dreiling had already talked twice on Monday — before 11:30 a.m. — he had never met Dreiling when he moved to Hutchinson in 2006 to follow his wife, who was hired as a teacher.
Delaney played linebacker at Emporia State, but he didn’t start coaching right out of college. Instead he became the fitness director in Derby, which is also where he met current Derby coach Brandon Clark.
“I realized I missed coaching,” Delaney said. “I got a (non-teaching coach) job at Clearwater for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. That was my first experience teaching. I decided I wanted to learn all about football.”
Hutchinson, of course, was the perfect place. The Salthawks won titles from 2004-09 and in 2011.
“Honestly, he’s one of the brightest young coaches,” Dreiling said. “He’s 30-something now, but I said that when he got here.… I knew right away that he was. He got it. He had ideas and concepts that were sound and not just picking and grasping at ideas and hoping that they worked.”
Delaney wasn’t satisfied by merely contributing. He wanted to be relevant. Wanted to make a difference.
By Delaney’s last season, 2009, Hutchinson’s best team in that span, he called the offensive plays.
Well, Dreiling did take responsibility for two plays — he says one lost seven yards, one lost eight.
“He wanted responsibility, he took responsibility,” Dreiling said. “… He got to know the parts and pieces, wanted to do the scouting report, wanted to do the practice schedule, everything that I was doing.
“He basically took all those responsibilities from me. I knew at the time that he was making great decisions and sound decisions and not just pulling things out of the air.”
Delaney was hired as Emporia’s coach in 2010, his first head-coaching job. He led Emporia to the Class 5A quarterfinals in each of his three seasons, losing to Hutchinson, Carroll and Salina South.
Everything Delaney has learned about coaching, he attributes to his time with Dreiling.
Monday they talked about Derby’s defense, handling players and dealing with players and motivation. He’s discussed player discipline, too.
SM East will start 16 underclassmen in the title game, including nine juniors on offense.
Delaney transitioned the program to the flexbone from a team that threw it 30 or more times a game in 2012. His linemen didn’t know how to get into a three-point stance.
He needed a sounding board, and Dreiling was perfect.
“He’s the best football coach I’ve ever been around,” Delaney said. “He’s experienced. He does things the right way. People don’t realize those kids would take a bullet for him. If I get my kids to believe in me that way, that’s huge.
“… Everything I do I learned from him.”