DENHAM SPRINGS – This Friday’s game at Scotlandville will mark the final game for Denham Springs football coach Bill Conides after three seasons at the school.
The 35-year-old Conides called the move a “mutual parting of the ways” after meeting Monday with the school’s first-year principal Wes Howard – two days after the Yellow Jackets’ 35-13 loss to Walker to fall to 1-8 on the season.
“He’s the one that told me it was going to be my last game,” Conides said of Howard, who took over for Kelly Jones, who moved to the central office of the Livingston Parish School Board.
Howard issued the following statement.
“After (a) discussion with coach Conides, at the end of this season, DSHS and coach Conides will be looking for new opportunities. DSHS thanks coach Conides for his time at DSHS and we wish him well in his future pursuits.”
Conides said he informed his team after Monday’s practice they would have one last game together.
“I want them to go out and play hard and fight, just like they did last week,” he said. “I know at the end of the day they’re better kids for having played in our program.”
Conides, 48-26 overall in six seasons, was hired on Dec. 12, 2016 to replace Dru Nettles as both head football coach/athletic director. He has a record of 14-18 at Denham Springs, where he reached the state playoffs in both of his first two seasons.
The Yellow Jackets registered back-to-back winning seasons and advanced to the state regionals a year ago, falling 38-37 to Class 5A powerhouse Acadiana in what would have been the first state quarterfinal appearance for the school since 1985.
This season hasn’t gone according to plan for Denham Springs, which after rallying in the fourth quarter for a 17-13 victory over St. Amant in the third week of season, hasn’t won since against what’s the strongest schedule among Class 5A teams, according to the LHSAA.
“Early in the season is a time for you to gain confidence, especially with a new team,” said Conides, who also serves as the school’s athletics director. “Every single week we felt good going into the game.”
Conides acknowledged the turning point in the season took place a week later after the St. Amant game.
Denham Springs hosted then undefeated Assumption in a game they led 34-18 with six minutes remaining. The Yellow Jackets fell victim to a 22-point rally on three long touchdown passes and suffered a 40-34 defeat.
“We’re up and about to put the JV team in and the season hasn’t been the same since,” Conides said. “At that point we’re 2-2 and would have beaten a good team and I think at that point we’re rolling. The kids have never quit. They’ve fought like warriors and that’s all you can ask for.”
Conides believes several factors worked against him, beginning with the dynamic that accompanies having a new boss.
Jones brought Conides to Denham Springs with a background for wide-open football and success where in three years at St. Stanislaus High in Bay St. Louis, Miss. the native of Newport News, Va. guided the team to a 34-8 record and a pair of appearances in the Class 4A state championship game.
“New principal, new head coach,” Conides said. “It’s like when you get a new (NFL General Manager) GM, you get a new coach. It’s part of the business. I get it. You want to have your people. I was Kelly’s guy and we did good things together.”
Conides also felt not living in Denham Springs and being a bigger part of the community contributed to his downfall once the Yellow Jackets’ record began to decline, reaching six consecutive losses.
Conides and his family of three have resided in Mandeville where his wife works in the New Orleans area.
“It had a lot to do with the fact that we never moved here and currently being 1-8 was all the ammunition needed,” he said. “I went from a hero to zero in 12 months. I think Mr. Howard saw it, but people in the community didn’t necessarily see it that I didn’t do a good enough job of getting into the community.
“They didn’t think I did a good enough job of placing a spotlight on our program,” Conides said. “That I was too embedded in the actual Xs and Os in the football aspect of things to really show people what we’re all about aside from what they see on Friday night.”
Conides acknowledged the daily round trip two-hour commute to work took its toll. He said there was a consideration to move to Denham Springs during his tenure but opted to remain in Mandeville.
“I’m looking forward to being home with my kids and my wife,” he said. “For years I’ve spent more time with other people’s kids than my own. I think a lot of coaches come to this realization when it’s too late. I’m glad to be coming to this realization now, not when I’m 50 and wonder, ‘where did the time go?’”.
Conides took solace in his team’s 3.23 grade point average, collective ACT score of 22 and with a 9-10 players expected to sign college scholarships February, that total will hover close to 22 signees during his three seasons.
Moreover, he said the junior varsity program has a 7-2 record, while the freshmen are 9-1, leading credence that Conides believes better days are ahead for his successor.
Conides, who expects to work at Denham Springs until the Christmas break, didn’t rule out coaching again – a profession he’s spent the past 15 years at five different schools.
“Whether I’m still in coaching or not, I don’t know,” he said.