By CHRIS MORRIS
The countdown to Providence’s next football game is 154 days and counting. But the countdown to finding a new coach has ended.
Larry Denison, who has spent the last 17 years as an assistant coach on the Providence staff, was officially named the school’s new head football coach Friday afternoon. He replaces Gene Sartini who retired following a 40-year coaching stint at the school.
Denison played four years for Sartini before taking his talents to Hanover College. When he returned to teach social studies and be an assistant football coach at his alma mater, his dream was to one day become the school’s sixth football coach. And that dream has come true.
“It’s still trying to sink in,” said Denison sitting inside the Providence locker room Friday. “I’ve been on an eighth-grade trip to Washington and found out Monday. The phone has been ringing off the hook.”
Despite being a member of Sartini’s staff and an alumnus of the school, Denison went through the same extensive process as other candidates, said Providence Athletic Director Mickey Golembeski. Denison said he had two interviews with a seven-member committee that lasted more than two hours each, and a then a third with Golembeski.
“It was quite extensive. I’m glad it was done the way it was,” Denison said. “I’m glad I had to earn it on my own merits and prove to the committee that I did deserve it.”
Golembeski said there were a lot of quality applicants who showed interest in the job.
“The candidates were very, very strong,” he said. “He [Denison] earned the job. It wasn’t just given to him. It’s a big difference.”
Denison said he plans to change offensive and defensive schemes, and will likely have a new coaching staff. He said he is already interviewing candidates. But there is one thing he will never change at Providence ... something that was instilled in him during his playing days at the school.
“Faith, family and football will always be the foundation of the football program,” Denison said. “I think knowing the ins and outs of the school and the athletic departments, and knowing the tradition of Providence helps. The coaches here have set the bar very high. I have high expectations to live up to but I am excited for the opportunity.”
Of the five previous coaches, two are in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and another, Gene “Spider” Murphy had the football stadium named in his honor.
Golembeski said Sartini sent a letter of recommendation to the committee in support of Denison.
“Other than my immediate family and my faith, nothing has had a greater impact on my life more than Providence football,” Denison said. “I hope that is something I can pass on. I hope to have a positive impact on the kids.”
Sartini said Denison deserved the opportunity to be the head coach.
“Larry knows the kids. I knew he would get it, I just felt it in my bones,” Sartini said. “I’m pleased with the choice.”
Denison said Sartini congratulated him on his selection. He also said both Sartini, and his former Hanover coach, Wayne Perry, had great influence on his life.
“I am really looking forward to the opportunity,” he said.