Mariner High School administrators reached back into history for a new football coach to replace Chris Siner, who resigned two weeks ago after three seasons in charge.
Fourteen years after leaving the Cape Coral High gridiron, James Hale is returning to Southwest Florida as the Tritons' new coach. Actually, the third time was the charm for Hale.
"I was offered the job by Michael McNerney as their first coach," Hale said Thursday upon arriving in town to meet the staff and players.
Hale was a candidate for the job another time before accepting the current offer on Wednesday. He was at Lake Wales before taking the Cape High job after Mariner's program was up and running.
"He saw the opening on the FHSAA website," said Mariner athletic director Vito Mennona. "I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from him. I had no idea he wanted to leave the Panhandle."
Hale said he already had resigned at Panama City Beach Arnold, where he had been the program's first coach since 2000, and decided to retire after going 80-52 in 13 seasons.
"I was going to get out of it," Hale said. "Then, I got to missing it and two principals called me. Then I heard about the Mariner job. I called Vito and asked him if there was a chance? That really made me want to make a commitment. After talking to Vito I wanted the job bad."
Hale coached nine seasons at Cape High, leading the Seahawks to a 12-1 season in 1993, and was 51-42 overall (.548 winning percentage, fourth best in school history). The record would have been better were it not for an 0-10 mark his last season at Cape. He left to take the Lehigh job, but went 0-10 his only season there, too.
"I remember that last season at Lehigh," said Hale. "Several Cape guys went there as administrators and I joined them. We started a lot of freshmen that year, but I understand they had a really good team a couple years later."
Hale becomes the sixth football coach at Mariner in the years since he left the area 13 years ago. The Tritons are coming off three consecutive 3-7 seasons under Siner.
"He (Hale) was very successful at Cape High," said Mennona. "If not for a bad punt against Deerfield Beach he would have gone to the state semifinals that year. He did a good job at Lake Wales before that and at Panama City Beach Arnold. He knows the area, but now there are more schools, more businesses, more people here."
The Tritons are in the process of building a new weight room for athletes, which sold Hale on the school's commitment.
"I've known (Hale) since 1990," said Mennona. "Our boys played Little League together. I saw him take Cape from nothing to a powerhouse and he did the same at Arnold. Though we are above a nothing program, we need to build it back. He has the enthusiasm and experience to help us get back there."
Hale left Southwest Florida to be closer to family members, but now they are gone and he is no longer tied to the area.
"I was here 10 years and really loved it," said Hale. "I had a lot of friends here, but I'm really sad that Frank Sirianni Sr. is gone. He helped me out a lot my first time here. This would not have happened if it were not (a job) at Cape or Mariner. It seems that God wants me to be back here."
The Tritons are expected to have a strong underclass squad. They only graduate 10 seniors.
Hale said he will be in place for the start of spring practice in May and wants to round up several of the assistant coaches from his Cape years for his Tritons staff.