West Carrollton’s Parker adds football head coach to basketball head coach duties

WEST CARROLLTON — The numbers didn’t make sense.

As West Carrollton’s football season neared its end, there were only 27 players trying to break what is now a 21-game losing streak. Meanwhile, inside the school there were about 35 boys basketball players — coming off three straight winning varsity seasons — lifting weights and conditioning well before the first official day of practice.

“I wasn’t quite sure of the disconnect,” head basketball coach Anthony Parker said. “What if these guys (basketball players) join these guys (football players), and now you have the ability to look like a program and have our young men experience what it’s really like to play high school football and play both sports.”

Perhaps, a football program with 60 players? It takes a number like that to compete well in Division III and the Miami Valley League.

“Coach Parker has been the first person to say it shouldn’t be like that,” athletic director Evan Ivory said of the low football turnout.

When a third football coach in five seasons departed after a second straight winless season, Ivory knew who we wanted to hire. He watched Parker turn the basketball program around on and off the court and wanted the same quality of role model for the football team. What if Parker coached both teams? That’s almost unheard of these days, but at West Carrollton, Parker is the new head football coach and will continue as the boys head basketball coach.

“He’s proven time and again that he’s a relentless worker, kind of like me, and that’s what I think we bond over,” Ivory said. “If we can get a piece of what we’ve had with boys basketball and the kind of the development of the kids on and off the court, he’ll be special football coach.

“We’ve had the Xs and Os guys, we’ve had the coaches that break down film religiously. But it’s been missing that connection with the kids, the connection to the community, the parents, building the kind of culture like I grew up with at Centerville where you take it for granted.”

Parker, a 1997 Jefferson grad and star football player for the Broncos, wants to create a positive culture, and he’s seen strong cultures up close under highly successful coaches. He was a varsity basketball assistant at Trotwood-Madison for nine years and coached in the football program for five years. He said he learned much from football coaches Maurice Douglass (now at Springfield) and Jeff Graham and basketball coach Rocky Rockhold. Parker came to West Carrollton to coach basketball five years ago and turned the program into a winner.

“I looked at it as an opportunity to try to bring the two together because I feel like there’s a lot of athletes that play basketball and would probably be better at football or at least have the same opportunity,” he said. ”There is a lot of good talent that needs to be inspired or shown the proper way to play.”

Ivory’s idea for Parker to coach both sports goes deeper than the court and the field. He’s seen behavior and grades improve throughout the basketball program because Parker holds players accountable.

“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my profession,” said Ivory, whose first coaching hire at West Carrollton was Parker. “We just did eligibility for the rest of the year and everybody’s eligible. I won’t say that there’s no issues in the classroom, but it’s usually the younger guys, The guys that have been around Coach Parker for multiple years, there’s no discipline issues. Grades have never been higher. They take it seriously.”

Parker and Ivory know that good assistants will go a long way in making this a successful venture and to avoid burnout. One of Parker’s football coaches at Jefferson, Darren Byrd, is his basketball assistant and will coach linebackers. Parker’s son, Anthony Parker Jr., works in the West Carrollton school district and is on the basketball staff. He will coach defensive line and running backs. And Parker is filling his football staff with other experienced coaches, including former head coaches. The goal is to assemble staffs that function well if Parker can’t be at every team event because of the inevitability of overlap.

“He’s just got that infectious personality that you want to be around,” Ivory said. “He’s a very charismatic guy that obviously is attracting great assistant coaches. It’s very exciting.”

Parker lives in Trotwood and has two other job responsibilities that help young people. He runs the nonprofit Extraordinary Men Mentoring Group that serves at-risk youth ages 5 to 15 in Montgomery County. And he and his wife own and operate a daycare. Now he will be in charge of two time-consuming athletic programs.

“I couldn’t tell you scores, or wins and losses, but what I can tell you is that I can remember how the coaches made me feel, how the coaches inspired me, how the coaches made an impact much more than a particular sport,” Parker said. “That left a lasting impact on me, and it was something that if I was given the opportunity I wanted to continue.”

The Pirates are struggling a bit in basketball with a 6-10 record and 5-8 mark in the MVL, but young players and injuries are a factor. Still, the program is healthy with numbers and, perhaps, a year away from challenging for a second league title in four years. Only two basketball players played football this past fall, but Parker said many have told him they will follow him to the football field.

“They believed in me enough to know that there’s going to be some change,” he said. “We will look like a football team, we’ll have to be respected as a football team, teams will have to scout and game plan for us. We won’t everybody’s fun game or gimme game. Those young men deserve to experience something good about Friday night lights.”

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