EAST CHICAGO | Jay Novak grew up on the south side of East Chicago. His father, a 25-year police officer there, played basketball at Roosevelt and his uncle was a quarterback for the Rough Riders in the 1970s.
So when Novak meets with the E.C. Central football players on Wednesday as the Cardinals new coach, he already knows what he will say.
"It feels great to be back home with the Cardinal family," he said on Monday afternoon, after his hiring was officially announced by school officials.
Novak was 3-17 in two years at Clark. He replaces Stacy Adams who took E.C. to the Class 4A Northern Semistate last fall, a historic event. Adams took the athletic director's job at South Bend Washington recently.
"I'm so excited," Novak said. "I can't wait to get started."
Novak played football at Highland, where he graduated in 1995. In 1997 he began his coaching career as an assistant for Jeff Cain at Whiting. Novak was there for nine seasons.
He moved to Lake Station in 2006. He was at E.C. Central from 2007 until 2012 as an assistant.
There are 29 Cardinals who will graduate this year so there will be a rebuilding project in the program.
"We have a real good eighth-grade group," said Novak of the team that finished 8-1 last year. "I've made a connection with a lot of the kids because I work in one of the middle school buildings."
Novak met with the Pioneers on Monday and it was an emotional farewell. He wanted to make sure everyone in Robertsdale knows how appreciative he is for the opportunity.
"It was a very hard decision to leave what we have built together at Clark," Novak said. "I love the kids at Clark. I thank the Clark administration for giving me the opportunity to lead the program. I am confident that those seniors at Clark have put in the necessary hard work this past offseason to be very successful this upcoming fall.
"I wish them the best and will be pulling for them."