Danny Russell from Garland was tabbed Monday night to be the 20th head coach in Wichita Falls High School’s history.
Russell replaces Jayson Lavender, who resigned in December after four seasons. The hire as the head coach and athletic coordinator at WFHS was approved at a board meeting Monday.
“We feel that Danny Russell will be a perfect fit for WFHS,” WFISD athletic director Kenny Catney said. “He demonstrated that with his successful experience at Garland High School.
“We believe that Danny is in agreement with our mission on education, discipline and character development.”
Russell has served as the defensive coordinator at Garland since 2001. He was the secondary coach on the 1999 Class 5A state championship team with the Owls.
Russell, 46, is a 1984 graduate of Garland, where he was an all-district player in football and baseball. He played college baseball at Panola College and the University of North Texas.
After graduation, he started a career in the business world. But at age 29, he decided he would be happier, though not wealthier, in education.
“Honestly, it was the best thing I ever did,” Russell said. “The day I got in education was one of those eye-opening experiences.
“It’s a new challenge every day, and I think that’s a big part of it. I obviously enjoy being around kids.”
Russell and Lavender have ties at Garland. Lavender was a defensive backs coach under Russell there.
Russell has been somewhere the Coyotes haven’t recently, and that’s the playoffs. His teams have won 14 district championships, including the past two years. He has been a part of 17 playoff teams and has coached in 30 playoff games.
The Coyotes had their first 2-0 start since 2000 this past season but then lost their final eight games. They were 10-30 over the past four seasons and haven’t qualified for the Class 4A playoffs since 2007. The team’s last district title came in 2003.
Russell is well aware of those struggles, but he’s also excited about the opportunity and the great Coyote tradition.
“I’m really excited about it for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One is the similarity to where I’ve spent my whole career, being the oldest school with a lot of tradition. I know how important tradition is to the community.
“And I have confidence in myself and what I stand for and what attracts students. In the long haul, it’ll work.”
Russell has been a finalist before, including Paris last year, and said he’s had “one or two opportunities in the past that just didn’t feel right.”
He felt the WFISD administrators were very upfront about the challenges here.
“It’s difficult in some respects but a very promising situation,” Russell said.
He compared taking on the challenge with the way he’s coached “kids about expanding and searching out new adventures.”
Lavender praised his successor as well, and his love for kids was the first thing that came to mind when asked about Russell.
“It’s a great hire, it’s not often you can get a guy with his credentials,” Lavender said. “I’m excited about the hire as a Coyote. I know how he is with kids. All these accolades he has with his defense is one thing, but the main thing is his care for kids.”
Russell said he’s very supportive of athletes who wish to play multiple sports.
“The adults (coaches) have to realize that the programs are for the kids, not the coaches,” Russell said.
Russell hopes to come to Wichita Falls to meet with coaches, parents and the booster club this week and be here full-time by Friday.
Russell and his wife, Phyllis, have two children, Alicia, a sixth-grader, and Cody, a fifth-grader.