When Jeff Bayuk stepped aside as Hubbard's football coach at the end of the 2006 season, Brian Hoffman had every reason to avoid entertaining thoughts of filling the void.
For starters, Hoffman would be looking at following a man who had won more games than any coach in Hubbard history. Going to Hubbard would also mean that Hoffman would feel the added pressure of being asked to succeed at his alma mater - he is a 1997 graduate of the school.
Finally, returning home to coach would mean that Hoffman would be walking away from established success.
After playing collegiately at Slippery Rock and Youngstown State, Hoffman began his coaching career at West Middlesex, where he served as an assistant for seven years before being promoted in 2004 to head coach. In 2006, he led the school to the Pennsylvania Single A state title game.
Yet despite all of the reasons to stay away, Hoffman jumped at the opportunity to take over the Eagles' program.
Now heading into his third year at the Hubbard helm, Hoffman is thrilled to be back home. Undoubtedly, many fans throughout the Eagle Nation are also happy to have their hometown boy roaming the home sidelines.
During his first year at Hubbard, Hoffman led the Eagles to a 7-4 finish, including a trip to the Division III playoffs. Hoffman followed up the 2007 success by leading his '08 squad to an 8-2 regular-season mark. After finishing third in the Division III, Region 9 computer rankings, the Eagles logged a 40-12 first-round playoff win over Ravenna before falling to eventual state champion Aurora.
"In all honesty, it was very tough leaving West Middlesex," Hoffman said. "We had established something very special there. The students, parents and school administrators were outstanding people. I had an enormous amount of respect for everyone in that community."
"I had told the administrators that the only way I'd leave there was if the Hubbard job ever opened up. That was the one and only job that could pull me away from West Middlesex at that time. Ever since I first got into coaching, returning home was always a dream."
Hoffman first got the itch to coach during his high school days. He said that he often mentioned the possibility of coaching to his friends, but that "at the time I thought it was nothing more than a pipe dream."
His time spent as an assistant at West Middlesex, Hoffman said, was an invaluable learning experience that helped prepare him for where he is today.
"I learned so much as an assistant. I think the most important lesson I learned was that coaching is a lot more than teaching X's and O's," Hoffman said. "In fact, that is just a very small part of the equation."
"Coaching at the high school level is all about developing relationships. You have to treat your players with respect, and you have to demand respect in return. As a coach, you have to be willing to work at creating a positive influence on a student's life beyond the football field."
Hoffman said that he also learned early on that "you simply cannot please everyone, so you shouldn't even try to do so." He noted that he and his staff stress the importance of making decisions based on what is best for the team as a whole.
"A team can go 10-0 and you're going to have a parent or booster saying you could have done something better. That's not a knock on Hubbard, that's a knock on football fans in general, because that is how things are in every community," Hoffman said.
As he was during his time at West Middlesex, Hoffman icontinues to serve as an assistant principal and dean of students at Keystone Charter School in Greenville. Though he noted that he sees benefits of a coach working in the same building in which he coaches, he doesn't believe it is essential for the success of a program.
"I've heard the arguments before, but in all honesty I'm comfortable with how things currently stand," Hoffman said. "Hubbard is filled with great teachers and administrators. They do a wonderful job of looking after our student-athletes, who are great kids in their own right. In some schools, being away from the players might be a bit of an issue, but not here."
As for the pressure being placed upon Hoffman to continue the run of success? Hoffman shrugs, noting that the fans of any winning program hold those same expectations.
"I don't think it would be any different if I were anywhere else," Hoffman said. "Besides, the worst pressure I feel is the pressure I place upon myself. I have high expectations. I probably place more pressure on myself than any fan can possibly do."
Hoffman and his Eagles will certainly be tested early in 2009. Hubbard opens its season Aug. 27 by hosting perennial power Poland.