By Steve ruman
For Jim Parry, the third time proved to be the charm.
Parry, who had applied for the Niles McKinley High head football coaching position on two previous occasions, decided to throw his name into the mix once again when the job opened in early November.
This time, Parry’s persistence paid off. Tuesday evening, Parry was hired to guide the Red Dragons’ program. After being recommended by a five-person search committee and Niles superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen, Parry’s hiring was unanimously approved by the Niles board of education.
Parry replaces Brian Shaner, who parted ways with Niles following a six-year stint.
“Having grown up here in the 70’s, and having played for guys like Dave Pappada and Larry Kempe, it was impossible to go through all of that and not think about having this job,” Parry said. “That Niles tradition and everything and everyone that goes with it has been the driving force to pursue this opportunity.”
Parry is a 1990 Niles graduate. He grew up just three streets from Bo Rein Stadium.
“Undoubtedly, Niles is still a football town,” Parry said. “Nothing generates intensity and excitement in this town like Niles football. Going back to my youth, I remember our street was full of cars on every game night, and the street wouldn’t empty until an hour after the game.”
“Some of that was brought back under Bill Bohren in the late 90’s and in 2000, and that was a fun time. Niles has always shown that it will support its football program.”
Parry was an assistant at Niles during those Bohren years. He then took over the Mathews program for seven years. He most recently served as an assistant coach at LaBrae, Warren G. Harding and back at Niles in 2015.
During Parry’s seven-year run at Mathews, the Mustangs posted a 39-33 record. Mathews went 35-17 in Parry’s final five years.
In addition to guiding the Mustangs to three conference championships, Parry led the program to its first-ever 10-0 season (2007) and its first two playoff appearances (2005, 2007).
When Mathews posted a 7-3 record in 2004, it marked the first time in school history that the Mustangs had won as many as seven games in a single season.
Prior to Parry’s arrival at Mathews, just one other coach in school history enjoyed a career winning record (Pete Simpson, 6-3), though Simpson coached for just one season (1997).
Parry, who inherits a team which went 2-8 this past fall, said he is anxious to get to work, noting that he “is not a fan of the term ‘rebuilding,’”
“For the upcoming seniors, it’s their last opportunity to make their mark,” Parry said. “For me and my coaching staff, the scoreboard is a reflection of what we’re doing, and how well we’re doing it. We want to get to work immediately.”
Parry expects to quickly assemble a staff of assistants.
“It’s imperative to surround yourself with great people, great coaches, it’s probably the most important aspect of being a coach,” Parry said. “I’ve talked to a number of individuals who would be great assets to the Niles program.”
Parry also praised Shaner for his years of service to Niles football, noting that the program “was left in much better shape than people realized.”
“Coach Shaner did a lot for this program that people don’t know about, he really did move the program forward and I will reap the benefits,” Parry said. “People only looked at the record last year, and that’s the disheartening nature of the business. But he really made a positive impact.”
Niles athletic director Marc Fritz said Parry was selected among 17 applicants. The search committee narrowed down its selection to three finalists before making its final choice.
“All three of our finalists brought with them impressive resumes,” Fritz said. “They all have had impressive careers and were very worthy. We just felt that Jim’s enthusiasm, and his ideas in terms of moving this program forward really stood out.”
“We believe that Jim has the ability to bring back some of the Niles traditions, both on and off the field. He’ll be able to reach out to the alumni and bring Niles pride back to the forefront.”
Parry inherits a Niles team which will compete in the All-American Conference in 2018. It will then become a member of the newly formed Northeast 8 Conference.