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Whose Job Is It Anyway? : At Servite, Leo Hand Is the Coach, but Not Everyone's Happy About It

November 12, 1987|STEVE LOWERY and CHRIS FOSTER | Times Staff Writers

In fact, Gallo, Visser and Smeltzer all left of their own accord. Gallo went to Cal State Fullerton as an assistant and is now the coach at Mater Dei. Small world.

Visser, who left Servite to become an assistant at Cal State Long Beach, became the head coach there this season. Smeltzer left to become the offensive coordinator for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League and is now in the same position with the Calgary Stampeders.

Hand concedes that, unlike his predecessors, he lacks the charisma to defuse criticism or win people to his side.

"I'm a football coach. That's what I want to do," Hand said. "I don't like the rest of the stuff."

That might be OK somewhere else, but at Servite, where, as Borowiec describes it, "50% of the job is off the field," Hand's attitude is unacceptable to many.

"What we hear on the coaching grapevine," Gallo said, "is the complaints about Leo really don't have a lot to do with coaching philosophy."

Borowiec said: "Leo isn't the most personable guy. He's actually a very nice man. But he doesn't come off that way. He's very private, a just-the-facts kind of guy. He probably isn't the type of public relations coach our boosters would like."

And the boosters have let him know about it en masse . During Servite's 31-21 loss to St. Paul, Hand was under continual verbal attack as he called plays from the press box.

One Servite fan shouted: "Leo, why don't you get your . . . on the field and do something? That's what we pay you for."

Hand never flinched; he never does. He says he tries to block out all the shouting, and there's a lot to block out.

"They are brutal up there," Dulgarian said. "Servite fans remind me of Ram fans. The second things go wrong, they start to boo and blame the coach."

Perhaps that would be all right, if all they did was boo.

"It's to the point where I've seen the wives and girlfriends of some of the coaches leave games in tears," said Borowiec, a former assistant under Hand. "They're vicious up there. My wife refuses to sit with some of those people."

"Those people" also attend the booster club meetings, which can turn ugly very quickly. Tom Blottiaux, father of Servite kicker Pat Blottiaux, recalls that in the meeting after Servite's 35-0 loss to Bishop Amat, a booster asked Hand why he was running the ball in the fourth quarter.

"The game was already lost. Leo told the guy he was just trying to get out of there without getting anyone hurt," Blottiaux said. "They guy said he thought it was sick that a team from Servite was not trying to score.

"I couldn't take it anymore, so I got up and told that guy that I thought people like him were sick."

Hand attends booster club meetings only after his team loses. If the team wins, he sends an assistant to speak.

"I get paid to take the criticism," Hand said. "If we win, I want to share the praise."

The praise that comes for the football team rarely seems to include Hand. Besides some boosters, members of the media, fans and other coaches have questioned his coaching abilities this season.

Servite has appeared at some times unorganized and at others chaotic. Twice this season, the Friars have had to waste three timeouts in the first half on relatively simple matters. Hand got into a shouting match with an assistant coach during a game against Fountain Valley. He alternates between coaching in the press box and on the field.

"You look at this guy, running up and down the stairs--looking totally lost--and you wonder, how did this guy ever get to be a high school head coach, let alone the head coach at Servite ?" said one booster who asked not to be identified.

Many also have questioned his tactics. Hand seems to alternate almost weekly from a passing offense to a running game. In Servite's first two league games--against St. Paul and Bishop Amat--Servite quarterback Jason Frank threw 76 times, and the Friars' exceptional running back, Derek Brown, ran only 15 times. The Friars lost both games.

Brown has rushed 63 times for 419 yards and 9 touchdowns in the past two games, against St. Bernard and Bishop Montgomery, both of which Servite has won.

Hand has conceded that keeping the ball away from Brown, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, was a mistake.

"There are times when you really have to question some of the things he does," said an Angelus League coach who asked not to be identified. "I think that team has as much talent as any in the state. If they don't win, you've got to blame the coach."

Which is no news to Leo Hand and his not-so-merry band.

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