Eberhart named Nitros coach

GLENDALE — When Alan Eberhart resigned from his post as Crescenta Valley High’s football coach amid the 2006 season, he remarked about how odd it was to say he was a football coach.

On Thursday, Eberhart was bestowed the luxury of once again being able to put am and football coach in the same sentence.

The longtime face of the Falcons will come home to Glendale, his alma mater, and the Nitros, as he was recently hired as the program’s 25th head coach and eighth since 1994, accepting the job on Thursday.

“I was just glad to be back and get another opportunity,” said Eberhart, who was introduced to players on Tuesday and conducted a workout in which a reported 70-plus kids came out on Wednesday morning. “The special part for me is I was a Glendale kid.”

Eberhart is a 1975 Glendale High graduate, who played football at Glendale long before he coached it at Crescenta Valley for the better part of 14 seasons, establishing an overall 89-58-1 record to go with five Pacific League titles.

“We got a great teacher, a great coach and someone who has a proven track record of bringing stability, consistency, discipline and success to a program,” said Glendale Principal Deb Rinder of Eberhart, who will be a full-time Social Science teacher at Glendale, as well.

Eberhart will be the third coach that the up-coming season’s seniors will have been coached by and the fifth Nitros coach in seven seasons. The latest coach to leave the program was Rafik Thorossian, who stepped down in December. But it was not until after he led Glendale to a 6-4 record in 2008, its first winning season since 1993.

“We are confident that Coach Eberhart has the ability to carry the momentum started [last year] in building a program,” Rinder said.

Continuing the winning ways of last year and adding continuity to a program in which that aspect has long been absent are high on Eberhart’s agenda.

“It’s a big deal, we have to build on what they did [last season],” he said. “Rafik did an outstanding job. It’s no coincidence that these kids did better with better coaching.”

Along with Eberhart, Glendale is also getting longtime Crescenta Valley defensive assistant Bill Irace. Irace coached alongside Eberhart for a number of seasons and assisted current Crescenta Valley Coach Tony Zarrillo last season. Other than Irace, Eberhart said he is in no hurry to decide on assistants, admitting there remains viable coaches at Glendale and some from past endeavors he’s thinking of bringing along.

“I’m just gonna kind of wait and see,” Eberhart said. “I’m gonna be patient.”

Irace, along with Gordy Warnock, took over as interim coaches when Eberhart resigned in 2006. Eberhart’s resignation came the morning after a loss to Burroughs and a subsequent altercation with a Crescenta Valley parent. Eberhart, who was rehired as an assistant on Zarrillo’s staff late in 2007, was in the middle of more controversy in May of last year when he was accused of being involved in a situation in which two Crescenta Valley students were beat up by a slew of football players.

“I am more than confident, as was the interview panel, that Alan has what it takes and has learned from his past to be able to bring the leadership necessary to the football program and our school,” Rinder said.

Rinder and a panel that included a number of Glendale administrators got the coach they wanted, according to the principal.

“There was no question he was the No. 1 guy,” Rinder said, “and there was some good candidates. The pool was deep.”

Thorossian stepped down in December and the position was flown in January, with the interviewing process beginning in February. It was perfect timing for Eberhart in terms of when it came along and how long it took.

“They took enough time for me to convince myself I could leave my job teaching at CV,” Eberhart said. “The process was good for me.”

Still, Eberhart isn’t looking forward to leaving his Crescenta Valley students.

“I’m gonna cherish every second I have left at CV as a teacher,” Eberhart said.

Nevertheless, what he missed most was being able to coach and coach high school players.

“What I miss the most I think is being able to be a coach of kids,” he said. “I needed to get back to that.”

He’ll get back to Glendale as a teacher in the fall. But, with May 18 bringing the start of spring ball, he’s already started to get to know the Glendale players, something that’s reportedly gone very well.

“Since we introduced him to the team, I have had a handful of football players coming up to us and thanking us for giving them Coach Eberhart,” Rinder said. “The kids are excited and relieved.

“His ability to connect with kids is commendable.”

Before Eberhart tackles his days at Glendale full force, though, he must say goodbye to Crescenta Valley. While he’s seen the aforementioned controversy, Eberhart said he will always look back on his days at Crescenta Valley with fondness. They are days in which he said he learned to be the coach he is today from the likes of Jim Beckenhauer, John Goffredo, Dennis Gossard and Warnock.

“CV will more than hold a special place in my heart,” Eberhart said.

But during the fall, Crescenta Valley will become an opponent, something that will be “different” for both the Nitros and Falcons sidelines.

“It will be different, I think that part goes without saying,” said current Falcons Coach Tony Zarrillo, who assisted Eberhart for many years and coached on the Crescenta Valley lower levels before succeeding Eberhart in 2007. “On the other hand, I think it’ll certainly be exciting. I think he’ll do a great job.”

According to Eberhart, his past and current team will meet in the second league game of the year for Crescenta Valley’s homecoming.

“It’ll be awkward the first year,” Eberhart said. “It’s a game that’ll obviously be of huge importance. It’ll be different.

“Once the game starts, I have to do what I do — and I coach Glendale.”

 GRANT GORDON is the sports editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3225 or grant.gordon@latimes.com.

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