From the Sports Editor: Charles set to take a break from DIAA job

Kevin Charles

Kevin Charles

Kevin Charles has had a job for as long as he can remember.

He thought he’d like to try not having one for a while.

“In 40 years, the most I’ve taken off at any one time is a two-week vacation,” said the 62-year-old Hartly native. “And I think I only did that twice. It feels like it’s a good time for me to take a break.”

But that doesn’t mean Charles’ recent decision to retire as the executive director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association means he’ll be sitting around doing nothing.

He really does think of it as just taking a break.

That means, even after Charles retires in June after 11 years heading the DIAA, you’ll still probably see him at high school games down the road. There’s a few different state tournament committees he’d like to stay involved with.

Before that, however, he’d like to do some travelling and spend more time with his wife and close friends, who are already retired, not to mention his five grandchildren.

“I tell people all the time, I’ve never taken a trip that I regretted,” said Charles. “I love to travel and see new places. I like travelling with people. There’s parts of this country I haven’t seen and I really would like to see.

“I’m not saying I’ll never work again. In fact I wonder myself, what’s going to happen in six months … how I’ll feel about this decision. But I do want to go at least six months and make no decisions about the future — just kind of relax and enjoy life.”

Of course, there’s still plenty of issues involving high school athletics that Charles will worry about.

He hopes that schools facing severe budget issues don’t have to cut sports. He thinks the benefits for kids being involved in after-school activities are just too important.

He would also like to see more parents and coaches take seriously doctors’ warnings about young athletes specializing in one sport and dangers of repetitive motion injuries.

At the same time, Charles says you won’t see him looking over the shoulder of his successor.

“Just as Jack (Holloway) did for me, once you turn the keys over, now that person’s in charge,” he said, referring to the man he replaced. “I always will be open for phone calls. I only live down the road. But I’m not going to be a helicopter parent when it comes to DIAA.”

The thing people forget sometimes is that the DIAA has only three employees: Charles, Tommie Neubauer and secretary Tina Hurley.

Much of the organization’s work is done by coaches, administrators and others from the state’s member schools.

So when Charles talks about the DIAA’s success, he knows there’s countless people responsible for it. And it’s that success that’s made him feel like this is a good time for him to retire.

“Things have gone very well,” said Charles. “In spite of some tough economic times, I think the state of the association is good. And this year in particular has just been a fantastic year. So many good things have happened, our attendance is good, our sporting events have been very exciting for the most part, minimal problems.

“I’m not sure I can top this. Maybe this is a good time to walk away.”

Hens in no hurry?

So Delaware jumped back into the men’s college basketball coach searching pool again on Friday.

Considering that Monte’ Ross was fired after 10 seasons as the Blue Hens’ coach, it’s been a while.

Of course, like every school’s fans, the Blue Hen faithful are sure there’s some hot-shot assistant out there, ready to take their program back to the NCAA Tournament.

Just remember, there are 346 other NCAA Division I teams in the country. And only 68 make the Big Dance.

Indeed, many of those current Division I coaches will end up getting fired sooner or later because they didn’t win enough.

Of the five men who have served as Delaware’s head coach since 1976, only current Notre Dame coach Mike Brey left on his own.

But perhaps the most troubling thing about the Hens’ situation is that the university’s administration doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to hire a replacement.

A typical Division I coaching search might last only a couple weeks.

That’s because the new coach has to keep the current players from leaving while also trying to scoop up a few new recruits before they commit somewhere else.

Delaware, however, said it’s going to hire its new athletic director before hiring its new coach.

But the previous AD, Eric Ziady, has been gone since the end of December and the school doesn’t seem any closer to filling his spot.

It will be interesting to see how — and when — this all unfolds.

Odds & ends

Rudy Simonetti, announced as Dover’s football coach Friday, was one of the original candidates. The New Jersey native interviewed Feb. 8 — the day after the Super Bowl — five weeks before he was hired.

“It kind of surprised me a little bit in a way because I hadn’t heard from them in a couple weeks,” said the 32-year-old Simonetti. “But I was really happy about it. … It was probably the best interview experience I’ve ever been on.”

Simonetti becomes just the fifth Dover head football coach since the late 1980s, joining a list that includes Jim Oxford, Darwin Manges, Carlton Brown and Dante Jones.

• Newark High also named its new football coach on Friday, with former Yellowjacket and Delaware Blue Hen player Barry Zhender replacing the legendary Butch Simpson, Newark’s coach for the past 39 seasons.

• High school athletes are anxious to get the spring sports season started on Tuesday. But, given the wet (wintery?) weather forecast and playing fields’ ability to dry, Mother Nature might have other ideas.

Cape Henlopen’s girls’ lacrosse team, which hasn’t lost to an instate school since 2009, will be going after its eighth straight state crown this spring. The Vikings will be at Dover for a 4 p.m. game Wednesday.

• Former Polytech High basketball standout Eric Laster, a senior at Loyola, netted a career-high 26 points in a late-season loss to Colgate. He hit 5-of-6 three-pointers and tallied 20 second-half points.

• NFL scouts from the Eagles, Bengals, Chiefs, Ravens, Redskins, and Dolphins were on hand at the University of Delaware football’s Pro Day last Tuesday.

While the Blue Hens had only a handful of seniors this year, the scouts also got to see Wesley College quarterback Joe Callahan, who took part in the workouts.

• With the Delaware basketball coaching job open, some Blue Hen fans are wondering whether former UD star Mike Pegues is ready to be a head coach.

Pegues is in his third season as an assistant at Xavier. Before that, he assisted Ross for two years with Delaware, where he was considered a big asset — especially with the Hens’ post players.

“He did it with an IQ for the game he learned at a young age,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said in Pegues’ bio. “He’s used that gift to help develop post players both at Delaware and here at Xavier. I’m excited about Mike’s future.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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