OLIVE HILL —
Mike Flannery doesn’t like to be singled out.
Others have equally poured their heart and soul into West Carter football throughout its 40-year history.
Flannery played on the first team, and he’s been a Comets coach for 35 seasons — he started his long-serving stint as a middle school coach in 1978. He still helped with high school that year before going to a full-time high school role shortly thereafter.
For most people at most schools, that’s epic endurance, especially considering West Carter has enjoyed just three total winning seasons.
For Flannery, the late Ralph Asher, Wendell Jones and several other lifelong Comets, there was simply no other way to live.
“If I had a chance to do it another way, go somewhere where there’s championships or whatever, I wouldn’t have changed it,” Flannery said. “I’ve always wanted every kid in this community to have a chance to play football.”
Jones, who retired in 2009, would probably echo those sentiments verbatim.
Asher likely would have too. He passed away in January 2012 at age 76. He was a West Carter football staple from the time he helped start the first JV team in 1972 until the day he died.
Flannery, Jones and Asher had more than 100 years of West Carter coaching experience between them.
“What we’ve had out here over the years I don’t think exists anywhere else,” Flannery said.
“They’re the guys that kept our program going,” said current Comets head coach Kevin Brown, who is in his 16th year.
There’s also Brian Brown, Kevin’s brother, who has been an assistant for 16 years. Both are former players.
Charlie P’Simer and Jamie Wagner, both Comets assistants, are past players.
“I’ve coached everyone on our staff,” said the 57-year-old Flannery.
Now primarily a special teams coach, Flannery has been all over the field. His experience is “invaluable” according to Kevin Brown.
“Not only is he one of my coaches, he’s one of my best friends,” Brown said. “That makes a difference.”
Flannery fell in love with the game as a junior in high school and that fire has never ceased.
Through the years, he’s acquired extensive knowledge from several head coaches with various personalities, all while remaining fairly even-keeled. Flannery began coaching when drinking water during practice was frowned upon, but he never truly had that “old school mentality.”
“His demeanor is pretty calm, always has been,” Brown said. “Not a lot of emotion.
“He’s very technical in his coaching, relates to the kids well,” Brown added. “He’s a very good football coach.”
Flannery’s turned down chances to become West Carter’s head coach multiple times.
“I never felt it was in the best interest of the program,” Flannery said. “I was looking out for the program, not for myself.”
Flannery’s coached an estimate of about 1,500 kids.
“I’ve had a chance to coach with some really good coaches,” said Flannery, referring to a group that includes Vic Marsh, Mike Jones, Randy Shepard, John Dyer and Terry Osborne. “When people say, well why didn’t you win? If you’re winning, that means you’ve got good players. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.
“We don’t have kids moving in or any of that stuff. We look at our seventh grade team, and we know what we’re going to have in a couple years.”
Flannery was able to coach his sons, Patrick and Thomas, each of whom went on to play college football — Thomas at Kentucky and Morehead State, Patrick at Georgetown.
Total time spent in the locker room, film room, weight room and on the field is impossible to calculate for most coaches.
“I’m probably making $1 an hour coaching,” he said with a chuckle. “If somebody’s coaching for the money, they’re really a bad financial planner.”
West Carter is battling through another tough season — the Comets are 0-8 with a home meeting against Lewis County on Friday — but “when we go to practice every evening, those guys still get it on,” Flannery said.
“We’re looking at the big picture,” he said. “These kids are still practicing hard. We think that there’s some good things coming down the road.”
And while he admitted there’s not too many years left in the tank, Flannery will probably witness that success from the sideline.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664. Look here every Tuesday for another installment of “Sidekicks” throughout the high school football season.