Rolla is in the midst of coaching transitions in several sports, but the Bulldogs now have three new head coaches in place. Head football coach Jon Franks will add to his busy schedule by taking over the track program, while second year Rolla teacher Rhett Cook will take over the cross country program. The two coaches fill the positions previously held by long time head coach Don Knapp. The final new head coach is Kenny Hohe, who will take over the baseball program.
Coach Franks is entering his third year at Rolla and will now transition back into being a two-sport coach. While coaching at Stockton, Franks served as both the football and track coach, so he knows what he's getting himself into. He said the key to running two programs, especially when the offseason programs for one sport bleed into the other's season, is having excellent coaching staffs in each sport. Franks knows that's exactly what he has on his hands.
"You couldn't do both of these without great staffs," said coach Franks. "The football staff has gotten very knowledgeable, they're hard-working and that allows people to do other things. The track staff is pretty established with a lot of people that know what they're doing...I feel very blessed and fortunate in that aspect."
The new Bulldog track coach has experience in several different aspects of the sport. Franks is knowledgeable in throwing, but has also spent time as a sprints coach.
"I spent many years coaching the throwers, I enjoy that. My last five or six years, I was the sprints coach at Lebanon and the relays. I really enjoy that aspect of development, just going in and trying to develop speed with kids," said coach Franks. "As the track coach, you wanna develop speed for all the other programs, because every other sport needs speed, so it's fun to develop and work with that. I really enjoy the explosive events."
Coach Franks is looking forward to taking over for coach Knapp, but he also knows that Knapp's are extremely big shoes to fill.
"He's beyond Rolla high school. He's the Ozark Conference, he's mid-Missouri, coach Knapp is known everywhere. He's highly respected. It's kind of like when you lose a very great athlete and player, you don't replace them, you just kind of move on and keep going," said Franks. "To say that I would fill coach Knapp's shoes would be an insult to him. I know the school has hired a guy that is going to work hard for the kids and do things that are right and treat people right, but to say I would completely step in and replace Don Knapp would be an insult. I'm just going to do things that make our kids proud and make our town proud."
Another coach that's going to try to step in for coach Knapp is Rhett Cook, who will take over the cross country program. This is Cook's first head coaching job, but he has a lot of experience in the sport. He ran cross country and track in high school, before running track collegiately at William Woods in Fulton. Cook is hoping to bring a youthful spin to the sport, but he knows he can't replace coach Knapp.
"I know it's going to be tough, but hopefully I can bring in some young enthusiasm," said Cook. "I know Knapp has been there a really long time and there's a lot to fill there. I'm just going to come in, try and get the kids motivated and pick up where he left off."
While this will be Cook's first coaching job at Rolla, he isn't a stranger to the school. Cook spent last year as a special education teacher and he is engaged to Jessica Zink, who was promoted from assistant to head softball coach earlier this year, so he's already been able to get a taste for what things are like at Rolla.
"It's good (to have spent a year at Rolla) to pick up the tips and to know coach Knapp," said Cook. "I've talked to him a few times and realized he's been there 37 years, I know a lot about his background. That's beneficial to just know what you're getting into."
Rounding out the new head coaches is Kenny Hohe. The new baseball coach was recently hired as an English teacher and assistant softball coach, but will now expand his coaching duties to running the baseball team in the spring. Hohe has been the Activities Director in Cuba for the last two years and was the head baseball coach there for the previous 11 years. While Hohe enjoyed his time as an AD, he's really excited to get back out on the diamond.
"I coached for 11 years and I stepped away to become an Athletic Director and I'll tell ya, while I liked being an AD, I love being a teacher and a coach," said Hohe. "I'm excited to get back in the classroom, I'm excited to get back on the field and have more day to day interaction with the students."
Coach Hohe said that he's looking to bring a lot of energy to an already talented ball club.
"I'm a very positive, upbeat guy. I wanna keep things fun, I wanna keep things exciting," said the new Rolla head coach. "We're gonna be a fun team to watch I think. I like bunt, I like to hit and run, I like to be aggressive on the bases offensively, defensively. From a pitching standpoint, we're gonna be aggressive and challenge hitters. Hopefully I can continue what Marty (Hauck) has done the past couple of years, because obviously it was a pretty good run and pretty successful."
All of these coaches will be busy right away. Hohe will have to wait until July to get into the full swing of things, as he's still under contract with Cuba until June 31, but he's going to hit the ground running with both baseball and softball and has already had some opportunities to see some of his future players. Coach Franks is of course very busy with football season right around the corner and coach Cook will also have cross country in the fall.