Departing are Jerry Woods (baseball and football), Eric Lawrence (boys basketball) and Steve Smith (boys soccer).
Entering are Dan Oliver (baseball and football), Chris Miller (boys basketball) and Aaron Portell (boys soccer).
Oliver and Miller come to St. Pius from outside of the private school, while Portell is now head coach of three of the school’s teams (girls soccer and girls basketball in addition to his new duties).
Smith will remain at St. Pius as a teacher and be the assistant coach for the girls soccer team. Lawrence has been hired to be the athletic director at BaylessHigh School in St. Louis.
St. Pius held a meet-and-greet for the new coaches on Thursday.
“Because of (Archdiocese) union rules, we had to get all of the teachers in place (for the 2019-2020 school year) before I hired any of the coaches,” St. Pius athletic director Tilden Watson said.
Oliver, 54, lives in Imperial and is retiring after 31 years with Affton. He was the athletic director for the Cougars for 13 years, head coach of the football team for 21 years and the baseball coach for seven seasons. He’ll help Watson with athletic director duties and teach physical education.
“I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing,” Oliver said. “I was at an AD meeting in January and touched base with Tilden and told him I was retiring and I’d be interested in helping out. I didn’t know at the time Coach Woods was stepping down. Coming closer to this deadline, walking out of a place I’ve been for three decades, I was looking for an opportunity and called St. Pius. The things I was looking for were available. We talked about helping kids and building relationships. That’s the way it is at St. Pius.”
That’s the culture Woods started from the moment he started coaching the Lancers. He has coached the Lancers’ football team for 13 years and the baseball team for 12.
After Watson interviewed Oliver, he said he knew the two men shared the same coaching values.
“Dan fits well with what we’re doing and he reminded me of Jerry and his philosophies,” Watson said. “I came here 13 years ago because of Jerry. He told me he wasn’t there to create a great football player. He said ‘I’m here to create a great man.’ When I talked to Dan Oliver, he said the most important thing is the kids.”
A couple of years ago, Affton and St. Pius competed at the same summer football camp at Lindenwood University in St. Charles. Oliver got to know Woods and his coaching staff that included Lawrence and Watson.
“It was a good experience because it was about trying to make the kids better, not trying to win a camp,” Oliver said. “It was about sportsmanship and not so much about trying to grind somebody into dust. That stuck with me.”
Tony Muyco, an assistant coach under Oliver at Affton, was hired to be the Cougars’ football head coach.
Ron Tucker, who is the superintendent for the Bayless School District, was an assistant on the gridiron for Oliver.
“It’s in good hands,” Oliver said of Affton’s football program. “(Muyco) will take care of the kids and do the things we do at Affton. That makes it a lot easier.
“I’m excited about getting started. St. Pius had a good record last year and I hope that means some of those guys are still there. I don’t think I need to do wholesale changes. I need to find out skill sets we have and they do some things that work real well. It’s about getting the language of football down. That will be part of the transition that might slow things down, but we’ll get started in the next week with summer conditioning.”
Oliver said he likes to run multiple sets on offense, but that can change into a power running game with the wishbone, or the Lancers could employ the spread.
Defensively, he wants St. Pius to be physical and aggressive.
In their last season under Woods, the Lancers finished 8-3 and gave I-55 Conference kings Valle Catholic a scare before losing 34-26.
Oliver’s daughter attended Windsor, and he’s coached against Owls’ football head coach Alex DeMatteis when DeMatteis was at St. Mary’s. So the other teams in the I-55 aren’t foreign to Oliver.
“I haven’t really looked at Valle. I’ve never seen them play,” Oliver said. “I don’t like to look too far down the road. I haven’t even looked at the schedule yet. Obviously they’re an opponent that gets your attention. They are Valle for a reason. Maybe we can get some things going, too.”
Oliver said he wasn’t looking to take over another athletic department, but was interested in ending up at a place that embodied his philosophy.
“Once we started talking about what was available, it seemed like a really good fit,” he said. “I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about St. Pius. You can’t be the head coach and not be present. You can’t just show up for practice and games. I don’t think I’d be good at that.”
Lawrence accepts AD job
Those who know Lawrence, 31, knew the day would come when he’d jump from teaching and coaching to the administrative side of education. Lawrence said that has always been his professional goal and so he will begin as Bayless’ athletic director on July 1.
He conceded that leaving St. Pius behind, where he fostered many close relationships over the last five years, won’t be easy. He said his new job will be less traditional and he’ll work with the district’s youth programs. Lawrence will be paid $65,000 annually.
“I’ll miss the relationships I’ve created with co workers, people in administration, the parents, teachers and students. I’m a big relationship guy,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence guided the Lancer basketball team to a 20-8 record last winter. His teams were known for their fast-paced, aggressive style of play.
“It wasn’t easy to leave the basketball team,” he said. “This wasn’t the first year I’ve been asked to apply at other places. A lot of coaches see that last class through and leave the school and the cupboards bare. It was beneficial for me because getting into administration isn’t easy. It was tough to have that conversation with those kids. I felt my work was completed with that group.”
Tucker has been the superintendent at Bayless for seven years and has been with the district for 20 years. One of the things Tucker said he liked about Lawrence was he’s currently serving in the Army National Guard. Lawrence is a sergeant and is in line for a promotion.
Tucker said he interviewed four of the 16 applicants for the job.
“The thing that impressed me about Mr. Lawrence was he coached football, basketball and baseball, and his service to our country,” Tucker said. “I liked the way he answered questions. We see a lot of promise with Mr. Lawrence.”
Lawrence lives in Festus with his wife, Melissa. He said he’ll continue to be an assistant coach for the Festus Post 253 American Legion baseball team.
“As long as (head coach Zac Bone) is there, I’ll continue to help out,” Lawrence said.
Miller rejoins coaching ranks
Chris Miller was hired on May 20 to be the boys basketball coach at St. Pius. Miller was the boys coach at Grandview from 2013 to 2018 and has been the head coach at four other high schools in Missouri.
Miller, 35, is a tenured faculty member at Grandview and will teach social studies there this fall. He was an assistant principal and coordinator of the district’s alternative school in 2018-2019.
Now that he’s coaching again, Miller said last week he hasn’t been getting much sleep.
“Between breaking the news and being on the phone forever, after midnight my head’s going 90 mph and I’m back to filling up legal pads,” Miller said. “It’s nice to get back into that mode.”
Miller coached Kobe Klaus, the Jefferson County Activities Association small-schools player of the year in 2015-2016 before knee injuries curtailed Klaus’s career his last two years at Grandview.
He’ll take over a Lancer team that features Riley Naeger, who led the Lancers with 16 points and 11 rebounds per game before breaking his arm late in his junior season.
“Leaving the (Grandview) boys team was the toughest decision I ever had to make,” Miller said. “It was the first winter as a teacher I didn’t coach basketball. I really wanted to be out there but at the same time this is what I needed to do. When Eric told me he was taking the job at Bayless, he asked me what I thought I’d do.
“It’s going to be one of the most talented teams I’ve had the privilege to coach. (Naeger) will be a force. I know he’s been in the weight room since basketball season ended. He could make a big jump to be the best player in the conference. He has all of the tools to play inside and out. Josh and Nate Ruble both are extremely talented.”
Watson said he had just two candidates to replace Lawrence.
“What set Chris apart was his faith aspect,” Watson said. “It wasn’t Xs and Os. It was God being in what (Miller) does.”