New Potomac football coach Tony Lilly, promoted Monday after serving as an assistant at the school for one season, said he was fortunate to have played for coaches who were more into teaching than they were screaming.
That's the style he plans to use in his first head coaching job.
Perhaps tops on Lilly's list of former coaches is Denver Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan, who was an assistant at the University of Florida when Lilly played there in the early 1980s following his graduation from Woodbridge. Shanahan also was an assistant with the Broncos during Lilly's four-year pro stint as a Denver defensive back.
"He'd walk out on the field every single day and whatever day it was he'd say [for example], 'Tuesday! Greatest day of the week! Great day to be alive!' " Lilly, 43, said. "At the time, I was like, what's that all about? But looking back on it, what a treat it was to be able to go out there and be involved and do the thing you loved doing.
"I always admired that and felt as a player you tend to give your best when you're getting positive reinforcement. And seeing a guy doing what he loves, that's half the battle."
With practice set to start in less than two months, Potomac wanted to promote from within after fourth-year coach Ben Stutler stepped down to become activities director at Battlefield.
Lilly, an assistant at Woodbridge for five seasons before taking three years off while son Ryan played at Hylton, was the only Panther assistant to apply for the head coaching vacancy.
"The consensus was that the staff felt [Lilly] was the right person for the job," Potomac Activities Director Bill Stearns said. "There wasn't any problem or anything within the staff. We made sure of that."
Stearns was impressed with Lilly's professional background -- he played in Super Bowls XXI and XXII -- but was more interested in what he had done on Potomac's field than at Mile High Stadium.
"I was watching the first week when he was out there, and I didn't know him at that point," Stearns said. "He didn't pull kids aside and yell at them, he pulled kids aside and taught them. Some people will just yell at kids and tell them they're doing something wrong. He was telling them what they needed to do right."
Lilly, the Panthers' eighth coach since 1990, inherits a team that includes standouts such as lineman Chad Davis and receiver-defensive back Deante Steele, running back Vaughn Walker and defensive back Anthony Staples. Lilly said assistant Jerry Roadcap will continue to run the offense.
Lilly had taught at Fairfax County school West Potomac the past four years. He will teach in the special education department at Potomac.
Potomac went 25-18 under Stutler, including 6-5 last season, when the Panthers lost to eventual state runner-up North Stafford in the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region Division 5 semifinals. Potomac upset Hylton last season, 34-33.
This fall, the game against Hylton will count toward the Cardinal District standings. Potomac will rejoin the Cardinal and compete with Forest Park, Freedom, Gar-Field, Hylton and Woodbridge for the league title after having been a founding member of the Cedar Run District the past four years.
"I feel pretty good about the nucleus of the group coming back," said Lilly, who will make his debut Sept. 9 at Fauquier. "It felt almost as if the kids got a taste of it last year, and I think this year the idea is to go to the next level. Let's achieve a little bit more."
Two More Coaches Named
Potomac this week also announced new coaches for two other sports.
Former girls' basketball coach Mike Adkins, who stepped down at the end of last season, will take over the softball program from Chris Kadis.
Mark Mesterhazy is the new volleyball coach. The former Potomac assistant replaces Melissa Dowell, who left to become the assistant activities director at Freedom.