By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time since 1997, the Chelsea Bulldogs will have a new coach pacing the sidelines come this fall.
On May 7 the Twitter account for Chelsea Football announced that Josh Lucas, head coach of the Allegan High School football program, would be the next Bulldog head coach. Lucas will be the fifth head coach of Chelsea Football since 1965.
“He’ll bring a strong work ethic,” said former Chelsea head coach and current Athletic Director Brad Bush. “He’s passionate about football, he’s committed to it. I think that he’s a guy that our kids are going to be attracted to; he’s someone you would want your son to play for. He’s a guy I think the kids will rally around, a very outgoing and special personality. Those are the things that stand out, all kinds of specific football things too, but generally speaking, I think that he’s going to fit really well into our community and football program.”
Bush made the decision to step down in April, saying it was the best timing to be able to find another head coach for next season and the best thing to do for himself as well.
Lucas, 30, has spent the past three years as head coach at Allegan High School and prior to that spent five years as an assistant coach at Zeeland East.
Lucas grew up in Hudsonville, MI. and got involved with coaching after graduating high school and going to community college.
“I had great role models,” said Lucas. “Dave Duram and Dave Lidgard were my coaches at Hudsonville. They kind of got my eyes (on coaching) and got me excited about coaching.”
He coached seventh-grade football before transitioning to Zeeland East.
Lucas was originally going to apply for an assistant job on the Chelsea football staff, he had reached out to Bush via email and they had gone back and forth. When Bush made the decision to step down, Allegan was on spring break, but Chelsea had just returned from theirs.
Bush asked Lucas to still pursue the job, even though Lucas knew that meant a lot more applicants and great football minds would be going for the position.
“He invited Bethany, my wife, and I to come over for a day and just show us the town and the school,” said Lucas. “Then I interviewed twice and they brought me back last Friday (May 4) and offered me the job.”
“I know how special Chelsea is,” added Lucas. “Being from the west side my entire life you hear about schools on the east side and Chelsea is a special place. That’s what excites my wife and I to move our family and get rooted in Chelsea and be a part of that community. I just can’t wait to get to work there.”
The interview process came down to six high school head coaches in the state of Michigan. The process was thorough as the job entailed a teaching portion as well as coaching the football team. There were multiple rounds of both teaching and coaching interviews with two committees before a final interview with the administrative team.
“He’s a young coach and very talented,” said Bush. “We feel like he’s a good fit for where we are at with our program, he brings a lot of energy and excitement to the program. I think the fact we have a veteran coaching staff that will stay, they’ll be matched up with him, that’ll help him in the transition as well, so I think that he’s excited to get started.”
Lucas, who teaches and coaches at Allegan as well, will be finishing out the year in Allegan before transitioning to Chelsea. Bush told The Sun Times he would be coming down over the next month before school is out to meet the team and staff.
“I would imagine there will be more interaction with the staff because it’s easier on weekends and things like that,” said Bush. “He’ll be down as much as he can. Our players are aware, I met with some of our senior leaders this morning to outline the timeline and to talk about him. I’m going to do everything I can to help in that transition for him.”
Lucas, Bethany, and their 16-month old son Lincoln don’t yet have a timeline but are already in the process of looking for a house in Chelsea and selling their home in Zeeland.
With Bush being involved in the hiring process, we asked him what emotions he was feeling as he realized he wouldn’t be on the sidelines as head coach next year
“It’s not easy,” said Bush. “I don’t even know. Usually, I’m pretty good with words but it’s hard for me to put into words how I feel about that. I really feel like this is the right thing and right time to do this. But it would be hard for anyone to understand how difficult it is in the sense that I was not burned out, I was not tired. I just knew that it was the right thing for the football program and athletic program. But I’m going to miss it dearly, no other way to say it. It’s important for me to let him be the head coach and get out of his way but I will, like all of our coaches, do everything I can to support him. But I need to give him as much space to run the program the way he needs to.”
One of the things that the interview process entailed was someone who could be in Chelsea long term, something that has attributed to the success of Chelsea’s athletic programs.
Lucas plans to change a couple things as the head coach, tweaking some things offensively, but overall he told The Sun Times the goal and motto of “We play for championships” will remain.
“Coming into a situation like this is way different than the one I stepped into at Allegan,” said Lucas, who went 3-24 during his tenure at Allegan. “That was all about building a program and changing the culture and we were able to do that there. I know they (Chelsea) played in the state title game a few years ago and that’s been a dream of mine since I played in the state finals in 2005 at Hudsonville. I’ve always wanted to get back to that game and win a state title so obviously, those are some of the big goals for what we want to do as a program. We want to keep the traditions and culture the same. That’s what’s nice about having a staff that’s intact. Changing a couple things but still having the same mindset, culture and tradition that Brad set for the past 21 years.”
With teaching, he will continue to teach at Chelsea (physical education and health), moving his family, and taking over a storied program like Chelsea, what is Lucas most excited for?
“Just to get in the community,” said Lucas. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about everyone in that community and that’s something that really excites my wife and I. We’re excited to get to meet and know as many people as we can. We couldn’t ask for a better spot or situation to come into.”