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Duluth's winter prep coaches picked

Kevin Smalley isn't sure what to call his boys hockey team next year, but he does know he'll be coaching it. Smalley, who recently finished his sixth season at Duluth Denfeld, was among the winter sports coaching hires named by the Duluth school ...

Kevin Smalley isn't sure what to call his boys hockey team next year, but he does know he'll be coaching it.

Smalley, who recently finished his sixth season at Duluth Denfeld, was among the winter sports coaching hires named by the Duluth school district Thursday.

"I always wanted the position, I just didn't want to fight the other side of it and have to deal with issues about not being a schoolteacher," said Smalley, who has worked at Sinnott Blacktop Inc. the past seven years and recently became part-owner in Team Fusion, which sells Herbal Life health-food products. "Those things are always popping up in your mind and how [the district] was going to go about it."

The district is re-hiring athletic coaches as part of the process of consolidating from three public high schools to two. Denfeld and Duluth Central are combining athletic programs for the 2010-11 school year, during which Denfeld students will be housed at Central while their school undergoes renovation. The combined school will retain the Central name next year.

Among others who retained their jobs were Mike Randolph (East boys hockey), Jeff Nace (Denfeld boys basketball), Chuck Tolo (East boys basketball), Jim Jubenville (Denfeld girls basketball), Bill Kunze (East girls basketball) and Shawna Davidson (Duluth girls hockey).

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Assistant superintendent Joe Hill said there was a healthy pool of experienced candidates. Though all existing coaches were granted interviews, whether they are teachers, he said, was one important criteria for the selection committee.

"There are some contractual factors involved when we're looking at candidates of equal caliber," he said. "It's a tiebreaker of sorts."

Smalley said he wants to ensure Denfeld's feeder program has enough players in coming years.

"The challenge for us is with two public schools in our city, where are the boundaries going to be for our youth programs?" he said. "Our schools have been hurting on the youth side, trying to keep kids playing on the west side. Now with two schools, I hope we can iron this out and get a fair amount of kids playing on the west side.

"This is a chance for the community and the youth programs to support the high school team they're going to be affiliated with. That's going to be a big bonus in the long run."

Hill said Central-Denfeld's combined school has a projected enrollment of 1,528 for 2010-11. East's is 1,488, including 77 Central students who have expressed a desire to transfer.

Due to the enrollment bump, Denfeld will move up to the largest class in all sports except boys hockey. The hockey team, however, is moving from Section 5 to 7, where Central had been slotted.

The Hunters' and Greyhounds' football teams have been reclassified into Section 8AAAAA, the largest of the state's six football classes.

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The Minnesota State High School League has granted an athletic exemption for transfers, Hill said, meaning they won't have to sit out a mandatory year of competition.

"They are working with us and understand this is a very unique situation," Hill said. "As soon as we're back into our two-high school set at Denfeld and East, we won't need these amended policies anymore."

-- Other coaches hired: Central-Denfeld -- Jeffery Zauhar (Alpine skiing); Linda Puglisi (girls swimming); Sandy Verry (boys swimming); Dawn Miller (Nordic skiing). East -- Jason Baumgarth (Alpine skiing); Kyle Hartl (girls swimming); Bonnie Fuller-Kask (Nordic skiing).

Related Topics: BASKETBALLHOCKEYSKIING
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