Joe Ireland was named head football coach at Lewis and Clark this week, replacing Dave Hughes, who took over as the Tigers’ athletic director at the start of the school year and retired from coaching after the completion of football season.
Ireland has been LC’s defensive coordinator the past three seasons.
Ireland, 41, is a 1997 graduate of LC and played for coach John Hook. Ireland played two years of college football at Yuba College, a junior college in Northern California. He is married with two daughters.
Ireland started his coaching career as an assistant at North Central in 2003, and coached in Las Vegas and Bonney Lake, Washington, before joining the staff at University in 2015-16.
He follows Jerry Connors (1971-82), Hook (83-99), Tom Yearout (2000-08) and Hughes (09-19) as LC’s head coaches in the past half-century.
“I’m excited,” Ireland said Thursday. “I think this is a good opportunity for me and it helps I’ve got some connections at school. It’s certainly something I’m looking forward to.”
The Tigers went 3-7 last season and winless in the Greater Spokane League. Ireland saw the season as more than wins and losses.
“Our kids, they stuck together really well in a season where, you know, we weren’t winning a lot of football games,” he said.
“I was really proud of the kids as they kept a positive attitude, even possibly playing some of our best football there toward the end, which says a lot for those kids that they were mentally and emotionally still in it even as mathematically our team was out of any sort of possibility for the postseason.”
Injuries played a big factor for the Tigers last season, especially on the defensive line, where two preseason starters missed most of the season. The silver lining was a lot of younger players got valuable playing time.
“It puts you in a situation where you’ve got to be creative,” Ireland said. “We started putting some young linebackers in there and said, ‘Just try and get some pressure on the quarterback and make them throw the ball quicker.’ ”
Ireland indicated a lot of last year’s staff will return. As a defensive coach, he wants to mold his team with that strategy in mind.
“I have a lot of confidence in our offense coordinator, Trevor Mott,” Ireland said. “He and I have talked quite a bit. We’ve got a few ideas that we were interested in doing, but at the end of the day it’s kind of, you know what, you hang your hat on what the kids are best at.”
Ireland said he wasn’t intimidated by following in Hughes’ footsteps.
“I feel very fortunate that coach Hughes is still in the building and is my athletic director,” he said. “There’s obviously a learning curve for me, and it’s great to have someone there that I’m close with. I mean, just with the little things – I don’t even know how to run the laundry machine at Hart Field. You know, those are the sort of things he’s already helped me with tremendously.”
Ireland said he has a simple strategy to coaching.
“The most important thing to me is that our players are well prepared and compete hard each week and that they represent the school, themselves and their families well.”