Santa Margarita’s Rick Curtis has tough task in following legend

Following the guy who follows a legend is often times thought to be a wiser plan than actually being the guy to follow a legend.

Santa Margarita head coach Rick Curtis subscribes to that theory.

"I was always told never to do that," Curtis said. "Don’t follow a legend. They say ‘Hey, who followed John Wooden? Gene Bartow. Where did he go?’ Be the second guy.

"I’m at that stage in my life where I don’t have time to wait around for the next guy. Following Harry Welch is a tough deal. He’s a great coach. He’s won nine CIF championships and three state championships, so he’s a tough act to follow but I’m my own man."

Those around the Santa Margarita program describe the coaching styles of Curtis and Welch as "night and day."

Welch was a taskmaster, who did everything. The legendary head coach served as his own offensive and defensive coordinator.

Curtis, on the other hand, has divvied up the responsibilities.

He retained four coaches who were on the staff under Welch — two he named coordinators.

"I thought that they would be great to keep them and give (offensive coordinator) Jeff Grady and (defensive coordinator) Jeff Veeder some responsibility that they were really searching for so I can just step back and coach the coaches and try to motivate the kids and that’s, kind of, my role," Curtis said.

The first year Eagles head coach will coordinate the special teams.

Curtis was hired in December from Northwood High School in Irvine where he was the head coach for 13 years. Other stops on his 37-year high school football coaching career include Servite, Laguna Hills, and Irvine, where as the defensive coordinator and helped guide the program to three CIF titles.

He brings a spread offense to the program that is more intricate, especially in the passing game, than what was run previously. Defensively, the schemes are more complex as well.

It’s a different tune than what was sang under Welch, who’s schemes may not have been as complex but a huge emphasis was put on execution.

Regardless of the methods, Curtis will be looked upon to help Santa Margarita bounce back from its last place finish in the Trinity League last season.   

"It’s a big change for them," Curtis said. "There’s a lot of different things going on.

"It’s been a change for all of us but, I think, we’re building on that and we’re getting confidence."