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VISD trustees unanimously approve Roland Gonzalez as East coach

Jan. 19, 2012 at 8:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 19, 2012 at 7:20 p.m.

Roland Gonzalez talks with Victoria Independent School District Athletic Director Ralph Escalona during Thursday's school board meeting where Gonzalez was recommended to the board to be the new Victoria East High School head football coach. The board accepted the recommendation 7-0.

Roland Gonzalez was recommended to replace Mickey Finley as the football coach at Victoria East on Thursday evening.

Gonzalez, 45, previously coached at Houston Cypress Springs and Corpus Christi Ray. Victoria Independent School District Superintendent Bob Moore suggested Gonzalez to the board ahead of current Victoria East offensive coordinator Brad Eblen.

Gonzalez, a 1984 Corpus Christi Ray graduate, said he is blessed to bring his wife, Julia, and daughters Railey and Reagan to Victoria. The city has a sense of hospitality and community that Gonzalez said he has not witnessed since his tenure at Stephenville to start his career.

"It's just a sense of relief and excitement," Gonzalez said. "We always want to make decisions that are based on what's best for our family. We honestly believe this will be a great move for our family.

"The community support and the feeling around Victoria is very inviting for anyone who passes through."

In his eight years as a head coach, Gonzalez has a 43-49 career record, including a pair of district titles at his alma mater, Ray. For the past four seasons, he has led Cypress Springs, recording a 10-29 record as the Panthers head coach.

"There are always factors when it comes down to wins and losses," said VISD athletic director Ralph Escalona. "But the thing that cannot be overlooked are his character traits that he brings and the type of person that he is. Those character traits will be exhibited, and people will be able to identify with them in the next few years when they come out and watch."

Gonzalez attended Thursday's Victoria school district's board of trustees meeting wearing a Titans' red tie, and spent the meeting seated between Victoria East principal Greg Crockett and Escalona. Eblen did not attend the meeting.

Throughout the process, character was a trait Escalona, administrators and parents noted they expected in the next coach.

"I would like to see the kids really respect the coach," said Scott Strattman, another East football parent. "Whoever he is, and whatever he does to earn respect from the kids will make the team a lot more cohesive team."

Earlier this week, Baylor football coach Art Briles and D.W. Rutledge, the executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association, made calls to the district in support of Gonzalez. Combined, the two have eight Texas state football championships.

Gonzalez was an assistant under Briles at Stephenville High School in the early 1990s. His relationship with Escalona precedes that, as Gonzalez was a graduate assistant for the baseball program while Escalona was a player in the late '80s.

That shared history may have provided Escalona background about the man who won the position over more than 60 other applicants, but it was not the reason Gonzalez and his family are returning to South Texas.

"Mickey Finley has a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience and Victoria chose to go with him," Gonzalez said. "He has done a great job with them in his employment at the Victoria Independent School District. I think there is a great challenge that lies ahead, but that is one of the reasons I am in this profession, to address those kinds of challenges."

Since opening in 2010, Victoria East has an 18-7 record, won three playoff games as well as the 2010 District 30-4A championship. Though the Titans lost 21 seniors from the 2011 team that went 7-5, expectations from the players, parents and school administration are that the program will win district and more.

Gonzalez has yet to meet the team, but he said he is eager to meet those who will be playing for him this fall. Tentatively, he expects the Titans to have spring practice, something that did not occur in Finley's two years at East.

"The program is doing OK. Hopefully, it stays the same, and the team can stay together," said Yolanda Lofton, the mother of East sophomore starter Deondric Lofton. "For this to be a new school, it's doing pretty well."

At the Jan. 16 Victoria East football banquet, Crockett told the Titan football players his expectations: trophies. If nothing else, he expects the size 81/2 boot that is awarded to the victor of the Titans football game with their crosstown rivals to remain on campus.

"This is the expectation, these gold trophies," Crockett said about the trophies awarded to East in the Battle of the Sword rivalry. "Students, I told you at a pep rally I am not a greedy man, but I want more of these."



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