Thursday, January 16, 2014
After coaching North Augusta to a 12-2 record, Dan Pippin was named Region 5-AAAA Coach of the Year.
Pippin, who represented South Carolina as head coach of the Border Bowl team and offensive coordinator at the Shrine Bowl, places an emphasis on winning the region each year.
“I think winning the region championship is a big deal,” Pippin said. “There have only been two here since 1993 or ’94 and they’re both in the last four years. That’s pretty good. I think anytime you win the region as one of the Aiken County schools you’re going to have to opportunity to compete way into the playoffs, which we were able to do this year. Winning the region helps you get those home games, which are big for us.”
The Jackets head coach credits the players and coaching staff for the success they have had.
“The thing for me is that I’ve had stability in the assistant coaches and the kids,” he said. “The kids we have believe in the program and the process that we do, the next man up philosophy. We want our seniors to be the players, the kids see that if they put in their time, that, as a senior they’re going to get to play.”
The lone blemish on North Augusta’s region schedule came from Lexington in a tightly contested 18-14 game. Josh Stepp, head coach at Lexington, called North Augusta a “tough” team.
South Aiken’s Jeremy West, who replaced Pippin as head coach of the Thoroughbreds, lauded the work of North Augusta’s leading man.
“I think Coach Pippin is one of the best coaches in the state,” he said. “The way he develops the program and is able to get it built and sustain the success over the past four or five years is a credit to him and the staff. He does a great job of coaching his staff and players up. He’s a good friend of mine and it’s always tough to go up against him. His teams are so fundamentally sound and disciplined you have to go out and play your best game to have a shot to beat him.”
North Augusta’s success has come from hard work and a desire to win, according to Pippin.
“I heard Nick Saban speak after they got beat by Oklahoma, and he said it’s hard for kids and coaches to remember how much work you had to put into being that good,” Pippin said. “It’s hard for us because when our kids come back from colleges and see the (new) uniforms and the video board, they remember when we were 1-10. Our kids and coaches have to remember how much work it took to get to this point. It’s not like everybody (in the region) is saying ‘North Augusta is working hard, so we don’t have to.’ I think everybody else is stepping up their game to become one of the better teams in a higher level of the state.”
The Jackets have had the bull’s-eye on their backs for a few years, Pippin said, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I think our kids see that the bull’s-eye has been on us for four or five years,” he said.
For Pippin and the Jackets, 2014 brings new expectations and a bigger bull’s-eye, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.