As Lowell athletic director Patti McCormack started looking for the Red Devils' third basketball coach in four years, she had a list of what she hopes to find in the best candidate.
She also has a few challenges.
With five girls basketball coaching openings in the area, McCormack isn't the only athletic director trying to find the best candidate from an ever-shrinking pool.
"We're looking for the obvious," McCormack said. "We want someone to get us to the next level, with experience and confidence and the ability to teach our kids to get to the next level. We also want to create depth within our program."
"We're jumping into New Tech (school) next year, so the way kids take classes is altered," she said. "Even if you know who is retiring right now, we don't know what kind of open (teaching) positions we'll have. It used to be you could calculate three years in advance. Right now, we don't know where we'll have teaching spots."
At Wheeler, athletic director Randy Stelter is in the same boat, trying to attract an effective coach without the promise of a teaching job. He said that he knew in January that Dustin Nelson would resign after taking the assistant principal position at Griffith. Nelson stayed with the Bearcats through the season, and in March announced he was leaving.
Stelter had a list of 10 good candidates, but no open teaching positions.
"(Candidates) understand coming in that we don't have a teaching position," Stelter said. "They know how we do business and want to be a part of our program, a part of educating kids in the classroom and on the court or field, and that's what we're looking for in coaches. They might have to get a teaching position in another district and coach while we hope that something opens up."
Valparaiso athletic director Herb Hofer isn't worrying about teaching openings. He's just as happy to replace Joe Otis with a coach already on the staff.
"We have great internal candidates," Hofer said. "We're very fortunate in that respect."
Finding an internal candidate could be a boon for LaPorte athletic director Ed Gilliland. Outgoing coach Skeeter Heath resigned after the March school board meeting. So Gilliland can't post the position until Heath's resignation is officially approved Monday. By then, many external candidates have submitted resumes to other schools.
"We're going to look at getting the very best person," Gilliland said. "Is it an advantage to look internally? It's possible, just because of the teaching openings, that may limit who we can hire, and we have to see which teaching openings we have available."
Though the School City of Hammond has openings across the city, Morton athletic director Roydon Richards isn't necessarily opposed to finding a lay-coach, as long as the candidate fits into the athletic program. Richards is replacing Tom Haluska, who was with the Governors for three seasons.
"I think our situation is different than in years past because our previous coach did such a good job of building the program back up, so we're probably a pretty decent job to take over," Richards said. "We're trying to find someone who can fit in to our athletic program ... someone that can be the middle chain, so to speak, from volleyball and soccer to basketball to tennis; someone that can receive the baton and pass it on."
With 47 programs in the region, and 412 IHSAA schools across the state, there are multiple assistant coaches waiting for the right opportunity. If they see one of the five openings right now as their next, best spot, they'll have to tick off a few boxes on the ADs' wish lists.
"There is a Catch 22," McCormack said. "You're going to have a slew of assistants who worked under great head coaches who are waiting for their opportunity to build their own program. There's a degree of decorum for taking a head coach from someone else, who is also developing an assistant to be a head coach. So who do you look for?"
While there is a lot of gut instinct and evaluation to hiring coaches, there's no specific manual, athletic directors say.
"It isn't an exact science," Gilliland said. "It's going to vary from school to school and what your needs and preferences are."