The former Warren Western Reserve player is among three finalists for the position at the Canton school.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
GROVE CITY -- Brian Cross doesn't shy away from arguably the highest-profile high school coaching job in Ohio.
If you're Cross, the former standout at Warren Western Reserve High School, you ready yourself to coach the Canton McKinley High football team.
And you do it with self-confidence, planning and preparation, and by putting the right people beside you.
"You have to have guys with experience, guys with energy and guys willing to put in the time," said Cross, 50, who is among three finalists for the Canton McKinley job. Tim Hinton of Marion Harding and Thomas Bruney of Maryvale (Arizona) are the others.
Importance of winning
Cross, who coached Grove City from 1987-2002, knows that at Canton McKinley, success is measured by wins and losses. The pressure can be intense, the critics harsh and the public eye keen.
"You go in with a philosophy and you do the best you can," Cross said. "If we do the best we can, and I'm able to get the staff I would like to get in there, we would be successful.
"You have to believe in yourself and believe in the program, and you have to look in the mirror and be satisfied with your effort."
Canton McKinley, the national champion in 1997 under current Warren Harding coach Thom McDaniels, was 3-7 last season with Coach John Miller.
Cross, who played for the Youngstown Hardhats semi-professional football team and graduated from Youngstown State in 1982, wants the chance to lead the Bulldogs.
"It would be a tremendous opportunity to go into Canton McKinley and build upon the rich traditions there," Cross said.
If you have any doubts about Cross' competitive nature, just ask him how much he enjoyed his high school football days at Warren Western Reserve.
In his three years of high school football, Cross played on teams that totaled a 27-3 record.
So what does he remember?
"Unfortunately, the three games we lost," said Cross, naming Austintown Fitch, Canton McKinley and Niles as the culprits.
A tight end and defensive end at Western Reserve, Cross earned first-team All-Ohio honors and was a captain in the North-South All-Star Game before graduating in 1970.
He played two years at Bowling Green before giving the Hardhats a try.
"It was a first-class organization," he said of the Hardhats. "Things were done right, and we had some talented players.
"You ended up getting together with a lot of local college guys that wanted to play more football and maybe have a chance at the pros."
Becoming a coach
Cross' coaching career began in the mid 1970s as an assistant at Pymatuning Valley and continued at Mathews.
"I went up there [Py Valley] to volunteer and I knew I wanted to be a coach," he said. "I enjoyed working with kids, but I really knew little football.
"I knew about the position I played, but when you talk about coordinating a scheme for 11 people, I had a lot to learn."
After starting his teaching career late and graduating from YSU in '82, Cross got his first head coaching job at Py Valley before moving to Columbus Eastmoor and Grove City.
Cross, who has 21 years of head-coaching experience, had coached Grove City since 1987 before stepping down after last season.
His son, Adam, was an All-Ohio defensive tackle for Grove City and was selected for the Ohio All-Star Classic. He also will play football at Brown University.
"I turned down some other good jobs because my son wanted to be a [Greyhound]. I wasn't going to take that away from him," said Cross, who still teaches weight training at Grove City.
"I thought, if I was going to make a move, I had to make one this year."
McKinley has requested a second interview with Cross, which he believes will come this week. It has been reported that McKinley hopes to present a name to the board on Feb. 24.
The process started with 45 candidates.
"It's one of the top five public school jobs in the state," Cross said. "It's a program I've always had in my mind, and it'd be a great position to have."