Ivan McGlone was given the option of one more year as Russell’s head football coach.
A 39th and final year, though, wasn’t in McGlone’s plans. The 75-year-old said he turned down the offer of a ceremonial farewell season.
“It’s not in my nature to have them parade me around for a year,” McGlone said. “Either you’re the coach or you’re not.”
McGlone is no longer the coach, effective Tuesday, according to a school press release sent out on Thursday morning.
“We would like to thank Coach McGlone for his unparalleled commitment to our football program, our schools, our children and our community,” said Sean Horne, superintendent of Russell Independent Schools, in the release. “Our district will remain committed to all of our students in providing both excellence in education and all athletic competitions.”
McGlone said he was fired. He received no clear reason for the move, he said.
“I have not been given a reason other than they wanted to change direction,” said McGlone, adding that he requested a reason in writing. “I can speculate …
“… it’s either my age, my health or my playbook,” he said with a laugh.
Calls to Horne were not returned. Sam Sparks, Russell’s athletic director, declined comment.
McGlone had a 316-151 record in 38 seasons with the Red Devils, placing him seventh all-time in Kentucky. Since coming from Vinson High School in 1976, McGlone amassed 44 postseason wins and had just five losing seasons — none since 1997. After a string of six straight double-digit win seasons, Russell hasn’t won more than seven in any season since 2008.
He guided Russell to the Class 3A state championship in 1978 and a 2A state title in 2005. He also recorded undefeated regular seasons in 1994 and 2004.
The die-hard Wing-T advocate had plenty of success, hanging his hat on running the football and playing simple yet solid defense. Overall, including his time at Vinson, the 1956 Ceredo-Kenova High School graduate ended up with a 344-173 mark as a varsity high school football head coach.
McGlone overcame several health setbacks and the 2012 passing of his wife, Gloria, to remain the head coach and never missed a game. He suffered a heart attack and underwent major six-bypass heart surgery last spring.
Last July, on the day before practice officially began, McGlone received indication that the 2013 season could be his last. He said he was then also given the option of a farewell season, and turned it down.
“I knew this was coming,” he admitted. “Personally, I think it was in the works from Day 1 since Sean became superintendent (on July 1).”
On Tuesday, McGlone met with school administrative officials again.
“The suggestion is that I would stay one year and they could honor me,” McGlone said. “But if I’m OK, why couldn’t I do it the year after next? So I said, ‘No, but I could stay three.’ When I said that, I was almost immediately fired at that point.
“I’m glad I didn’t say four years. They’d have probably executed me,” McGlone chuckled.
The coach was looking forward to watching the talented sophomore and freshman classes blossom.
“To be perfectly honest, we had a good group coming,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve had back-to-back years of better than average football players in a while. I thought I should be with them three years.”
McGlone has coached generations of players. Several enjoyed college football careers, and a few even became area coaches.
Jeff Frasure, an established Boyd County assistant coach, played at Russell from 1991-94.
In 1999, he received his first coaching job, which was helping McGlone.
Frasure said he is trying to wrap his mind around McGlone not being Russell’s head coach.
“I was born in 1976, his first year, so he’s literally Russell football to me,” Frasure said.
He added that playing for McGlone was a “great experience.”
“He was a true mentor through and through,” Frasure said. “He genuinely cared about us. I never heard a cuss word from a coach until I played in college. Everything he did, he always presented himself in a first-class way. It was a real pleasure to play for such an idol.”
Raceland coach T.J. Maynard played under McGlone from 1984-87 before playing at the University of Kentucky.
Maynard said one quality of McGlone’s that is often overlooked is his competitiveness.
“Until you kind of get away from him, you don’t realize how competitive he really is, just because he’s such a mild-mannered person,” Maynard said. “I loved coaching against him, not because I wanted to beat Coach, but because I knew I was going to have to have my team fully prepared. That was fun.”
Russell established or continued several rivalry series under McGlone. Two of the most notable rivals were Ashland and Mason County. McGlone was 18-21 against the Tomcats and 14-7 against the Royals.
David Buchanan, Mason County’s coach since 1996, said he loved playing at Ivan McGlone Field at Henry R. Evans Stadium more than any other road site.
“We had some phenomenal games,” Buchanan said. “Whenever we had another big game with the Red Devils coming up, I felt like I was sitting on a million dollars.
“I like to compete against them, but I also have so much respect and admiration for Ivan, (assistant) Garry Morris and Sam (Sparks) for what they’ve done with that program.”
Both Buchanan and Maynard have been rumored as possible candidates to replace McGlone. Both said they haven’t been contacted by Russell.
Asked if there is a chance of him returning to Russell football in any form in the future, McGlone responded, “I don’t think it’d be a very good idea. I never close doors on all options, but I don’t think so.”
McGlone guided Russell to a state championship in just his third season. The latest title came nine years ago. While those are two of the most prominent moments in his career, he won’t forget 1987, either. The Red Devils were 4-7, but they fought and scrapped to losses to good teams throughout the whole season, he said.
“I thought that years like that were outstanding,” he said.
McGlone said several assistants on the current coaching staff are “upset” and some are still in “disbelief,” stemming from the fact that the reasons for his dismissal are unclear.
McGlone said his coaching days are likely over, that no one wants to hire a 75-year-old man to lead their program.
Looking back at nearly a half-century of experience, McGlone reflected on his 38 years at Russell.
“It’s difficult to put into words,” McGlone said. “I don’t know how good I’ve been for Russell, but Russell’s always been good for me. It’s like anything else. There have been some down times but, for the most part, it’s been a very enjoyable relationship.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.
Ivan McGlone was given the option of one more year as Russell’s head football coach.
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