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Phillips, Pavlansky challenged by change



Published: Thu, August 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Doug Phillips left Springfield for Salem; Mike Pavlansky was promoted at Canfield.

By JOE SCALZO

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

They came from different directions, but find themselves in a similar spot.

Last year, Doug Phillips led a revitalized Springfield program to a 12-1 record and a trip to the Division V regional final. After four successful years, he left in March to take the head coaching job at Salem.

Phillips was the man in New Middletown. Now he's just a man in Salem.

"I don't think anyone even knows who I am," said Phillips with a laugh.

Last year, Mike Pavlansky was an offensive coordinator for a Canfield team that went 8-4 under Tony Ross, eventually losing to West Holmes in the regional semifinal.

Pavlansky was not the man in Canfield. He is now.

They're both new coaches in the Metro Athletic Conference, but they're taking over very different programs.

Canfield: Pavlansky inherits a Canfield program accustomed to stability and success. Ross went 57-47 over 10 years, leading the Cardinals to their only two playoff berths in school history.

Ross resigned after last season to spend more time with his family. Pavlansky, who was head coach at Lisbon and Mentor before coming to Canfield in 1995, was promoted.

He was known. He was liked. He was the logical choice.

"I was very humbled that the board of education didn't look outward, but turned to me," Pavlansky said. "Tony ran a great program; I was fortunate to be under him. We're just trying to build on what was already established."

Phillips doesn't have that luxury. Salem won just two games in two years under Rob Mehno. No coach in the 1990s lasted more than three years. Just one -- Bill Bohren, now at Niles -- had a winning record.

"It's a great challenge," Phillips said. "We've seen an improvement every day and I think we're headed in the right direction."

Pay raise: When the position opened last winter, Salem called Phillips, offering an administrative job and a pay raise. He would have to leave his alma mater, but it was the opportunity he wanted. Salem interviewed six candidates and Phillips got the job.

He was known. He was liked. He was the logical choice.

He's also a winner. In 1997, Phillips' first year at Springfield, his team went 2-8 -- the same record Salem had last season. Over the next three years, he went 30-5, making the playoffs twice.

Phillips knows it will be tough to duplicate those results, but isn't afraid of the challenge.

"We want to win now," he said. "The seniors have been here four years and they don't want to hear about building a program. They want to have some success now. I want to have success now."

But he's realistic. Success starts with the players believing in the program. It comes from being in the weight room for four years and playing hard for four quarters. It comes from having the support of the administration, and the fans.

"There's a great community here," Phillips said. "When you win in Salem, the crowd rallies around you. But we definitely need to put a good product on the field."

Tougher: The support is already there in Canfield.

"Coach Pav had a large influence last year, " said Cardinal linebacker Tom Banna, one of just nine seniors. "Conditioning-wise, I think we're in the best shape we've been in since I've been here. We're real enthusiastic."

The Cardinals are young and Pavlansky is being patient. Senior wideout Gavin DiRusso said the practices are tougher and more organized. Mike Turjanica, a junior fullback, said the ingredients are there, but they'll need to develop quickly.

There's a lot of uncertainty, but they're in it together.

"Coach is always cheering us on, wanting our best," Turjanica said.

"We like him a lot."

Both coaches know how tough the MAC can be. There are no easy games and no shortcuts. Neither is watching other teams. They're too worried about their own.

"We have to concentrate on what we can do and get better at what we can do," Pavlansky said. "We'll need to crawl and then walk. Hopefully by the time we reach our league schedule we'll be ready to run."

scalzo@vindy.com




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