Former Ryan assistant to oversee football team, school athletics
The search for Denton High School's new football head coach ended Tuesday night when the Denton school board unanimously approved Kevin Atkinson as the school's new head coach and athletic coordinator. Kevin Atkinson
Atkinson, who was the head coach at Keller High School for the past 10 years, takes over for Randy Patzkowski, who stepped down in November.
Atkinson was the offensive coordinator at Ryan High School, helping lead the Raiders to the Class 4A Division I state championship in 2001 before becoming Keller's head coach in 2002. Prior to his stop at Ryan, he was an assistant coach at Flower Mound Marcus and Colleyville Heritage high schools.
"I'm extremely excited to come back to the Denton community," Atkinson said. "It's a tight group that really supports athletics and kids. Since I've been coaching, I've always thought they had some strong programs, and I feel like we can bring a vision in there with myself and my staff and do some great things. There's a lot of athletes there, and I'm excited to get a chance to coach them."
Ken Purcell, the Denton school district's athletic director, said Atkinson and Bridgeport High School head coach Danny Henson were the final two of the five finalists under consideration. All five interviewed with Purcell and new Denton High Principal Daniel Ford before a nomination was made to the school board.
Atkinson's ability to communicate with players and parents, as well as his ability to coach an offense, were all key factors in the decision, Purcell said.
"He's one of the best play-callers I've ever seen, and I coached for 24 years," Purcell said.
Atkinson's start date has not been set. Purcell said Atkinson would be available Thursday when the University Interscholastic League announces its reclassification and district realignment, allowing Denton to lock up its nondistrict opponents for the 2012 season.
Atkinson, who worked at Ryan in 2000 and 2001, coached under Ryan head coach Joey Florence during his time with the Raiders, and Florence said he expects to see Atkinson succeed at Denton High.
"The good thing about hiring him is he's been in that same situation," Florence said. "When we came to Ryan, they were not winning. He was a big part of turning this thing around. I think he'll do great things at Denton High. I couldn't be more proud for him."
In his 10 years at Keller, Atkinson compiled a 50-55 record, with a 1-4 record in the playoffs. Atkinson's lone playoff victory at Keller came in 2003, the first playoff win for the Indians in 10 years. In 2008, the Indians went 7-3 and lost a coin flip for the final playoff spot.
He will inherit a struggling Denton High program that has reached the playoffs only once since 2001. Under Patzkowski, Denton lost to Hereford 41-21 in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. In seven seasons at Denton High, Patzkowski went 12-59.
During Atkinson's time with the Indians, the Keller school district opened two new high schools. Denton experienced similar growth when Guyer High School opened in 2005, dwindling Denton High's resources for athletes.
Purcell said he fully expects Atkinson and the Broncos to make the playoffs in 2012, and that he expects kids who left the program to return under a new head coach.
"Usually when you have a coaching change, kids come back to the program for whatever reason, and now they're interested in coming back, and I think there will be a resurgence over there," Purcell said.
Atkinson added: "Football is a numbers game. The more [players] participating in that sport, the better off you're going to be. That's going to be huge for us, making sure our numbers are high. Hopefully having a new set of eyes and a new attitude, kids who haven't played will maybe come out and participate. That's one key … to get as many kids as you can out there.
"It's going to be important to share our athletes with all sports. I'm hoping kids that are in athletics and enjoy the game of football will come out and give it a try."
Atkinson said the recent struggles in the Broncos' program will help lead them back to success.
"There's a plan in place," he said. "It's going to take a lot of hard work. I think the kids there will be hungry enough to do it though. I'm just excited for the opportunity that I've been provided. I look forward to bringing the winning tradition back to Denton High School."
Staff writer Adam Boedeker contributed to this report.
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