CLAYTON — Randy Pinkowski had one big preference when he was assembling his football staff at Clayton High. He wanted every one of them to be a teacher, preferably at Clayton High.
And with his seven-man staff, he got his wish.
Pinkowski, a former 11-year assistant with the Comets who helped Gary Fowler’s club win the state 2A championship in 1989, is back after a 14-year run as head coach at C.B. Aycock. He also coached for a year each as an assistant at CBA, and before that at Eastern Wayne.
And the staff will be four parts returnees, two parts of his former staff at Aycock, plus one who was at a county rival last year.
“First of all, I look for teacher-coaches – certified teacher-coaches,” said Pinkowski, a former lineman at Denison University who has a master’s from Ohio University with certifications in athletic training. “My experience has been after 27 years that coaching is teaching. … I know that gentleman has been checked out with recommendations and certifications and drug checks, the whole deal. He’s had to have a physical, so I know he’s healthy.
“And I know he’s been through a teaching program and knows stages of development and learning styles. All those things are important in coaching, too. I want the parents to know the people working with their kids have been in college and through psychology and know more than just the physical side of the football, they understand how to teach and instruct and what to anticipate in dealing with the age level we deal with every day.”
And it’s about having assistant coaches throughout the school as well, he said.
“I’ve got two exceptional children’s teachers, a math teacher, a business teacher and a history teacher,” Pinkowski said. “I’ve got eyes all over the building, and the kids know that. And it also gives the kids resources where they can go if they’re having trouble with their classes. They have that daily supervision, the coaches can put out fires ahead of time and also help the kids academically.”
Pinkowski said he gave all of Clayton’s full-time assistants from last season the opportunity to remain on the staff, and four of them did.
Offensive coordinator and associate head coach Anthony Barbour, a standout running back at Garner and N.C. State, is a former head coach at Smithfield-Selma, Middle Creek and Southern Durham who is in his fourth season with the Comets. Barbour, a special education teacher, also coaches track.
Offensive line coach Vernon Brigman, a former head coach at West Columbus and assistant at Hoke County, has been with the program six seasons. The UNC-Pembroke alumnus, a former quarterback at Lumberton, teaches social studies.
“Anthony and Vernon have been head coaches, so it’s nice to have somebody who has sat in the seat,” Pinkowski said.
Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Allen West is a PE teacher who has been at Clayton 11 seasons and in coaching for 21.West graduated from Barton College.
Receivers coach Marc Rogers, a South Carolina graduate who coached two seasons at his alma mater Camden Military Academy before coming to Clayton two years ago, also teaches exceptional children.
Junior varsity head coach and assistant offensive coordinator Jay Westbrook, a business teacher who studied at both N.C. State and Western Carolina, was on Pinkowski’s Aycock staff for the previous 12 seasons.
Also coming from Aycock, defensive backs coach Matt Williams is an Aycock alumnus who spent a year each at Eastern Wayne and Goldsboro before rejoining his alma mater for two seasons. Williams, who graduated from American Military University, will also coach track and teach math.
And defensive line coach Jon Riba, who will also teach math, is heading into his 17th season after previous stops at Corinth Holders, South Johnston and Smithfield-Selma. Riba graduated from California Baptist.