Gaven Parker is back at Cambridge-South Dorchester High.
Parker stepped down as Vikings head football coach in January to focus on his administrative job within the Dorchester County School System — he’s an assistant principal at Maces Lane Middle School.
C-SD promoted defensive coordinator Al Waters to head coach in March, but Waters resigned just two months later to take the same position at Queen Anne’s County High.
Parker was part of the interview team that hired Waters, along with athletic director Kareem Otey and principal Jerome Stover. Shortly after Waters resigned, Otey was on the phone with Stover, when she got a call from Parker. He asked for his job back.
Once Cambridge-SD’s graduation was behind them, the group met — in person, while maintaining social distancing — to discuss specifics. Parker’s return as head coach became official Tuesday morning, June 9.
“The program’s bigger than any one individual,” Parker said. “We thought we had a long-term plan for the program that was going to fit everyone. I stepped aside to allow coach Al to kind of take the reins. You know how that played out. So we just had to kind of regroup as a team, regroup as a coaching staff, an administrative staff, and make the decision that was best for everybody.”
When Parker called Otey, she had two main questions. First: What changed? And second: What are your plans?
The first was obvious: if Parker stepped down six months ago because he wanted to focus on another job, what happened with that other job? How did his time suddenly free up?
Parker said his situation, both work- and family-wise, has evolved a little differently. One specific factor, Otey added, was his doctorate was put on hold.
“Yes, I left for the administrative position. I was already an assistant principal,” Parker said. “But some of it was I was trying to create long-term, 10-year stability. I’ve put seven years of hard work into this program, and too much blood, sweat and tears to let it falter. So coming back and settling the water, and making sure that the program continues to be successful takes priority over other aspects.”
The second question was key for Otey. When Waters left, she said she didn’t want to bring in an interim coach for one season and revisit the coaching search next offseason.
In short, she didn’t want a band-aid. So she bluntly asked Parker what his future held.
“Gaven said ‘Look, I’m being 100 percent transparent with you. I want the position. And I don’t see myself giving the position up.’ So again, I’m taking his word, going out on a limb,” Otey said. “Because we know what happened with the last person I took their word. But from the things that Gaven has told me, I think that he’s not going to be a band-aid. He is committed, and he plans on seeing this through for however long. But not for just a year.”
So the end result of the last two weeks of chaos for Cambridge-SD football is no significant change. Parker is stepping back into the position he held for two years and found success in. He accumulated a 17-7 record with two consecutive playoff berths. Last year he led the Vikings to a 10-3 record and a Class 1A state semifinals appearance.
With less than three months until the scheduled start of the 2020 season, the lack of change is a good thing. A new coach would’ve been far behind in establishing the program to their liking and getting to know the players.
But with Parker returning, those relationships are already built with players and coaches. He’s able to keep his original coaching staff intact — equally important — and will only have to fill holes vacated by coaches whom Waters brought with him to C-SD and then back to Queen Anne’s.
The Vikings can pick up right where they left off.
“It’s nice because it’s really like we’re not skipping a beat in that he knows our coaching staff, he knows our kids, he knows what we run, he knows the financial piece,” Otey said. “So we’re not having to train someone who’s never been a head coach and doesn’t know the ins and outs of everything. He knows all of that.”
Junior running back and outside linebacker Donald Banks woke up to the news of Parker’s return, and he was immediately happy. He, too, thought the continuity Parker brings will be important.
“We know what we’re getting ourselves into,” Banks said. “We don’t have to stress as much about other things. We know that we’re in good hands. With a new coach, he’s got to learn the different personalities on the team. He’s got to build a bond. Coach Parker already has that with us. So we can just keep going.”
Follow me on Twitter @SethTow. Follow us on Instagram @StarDem_Sports.