Mark Fischer has a history of building football programs in his 13-year coaching career, and he has some constructing to do at St. James High.
Fischer, 46, was introduced as the Sharks' second coach on Tuesday. The Sharks went 2-9 this past season and are 16-56 in their seven-year history, all under head coach Billy Hurston, who resigned in November.
"We're obviously a long way from where anyone wants to be, but I just see the potential," Fischer said.
Approximately 100 students attended a meeting for prospective football players during school Tuesday, and the track team was not on campus grounds. "We won't reach them all. Nobody does," Fischer said. "I'm not that good, nor is anybody else. We're going to reach the bulk of them and we're going to line up every day to turn this thing around as best we can."
Fischer was a tight end at Concord College in West Virginia and has spent his entire coaching career in Virginia. Fischer was a defensive coordinator for two seasons at Henrico High in Richmond, Va., spent three years as head coach at the inner-city Armstrong High in Richmond, and was the head coach for the past eight seasons at Louisa County High in Mineral, Va.
Fischer said he won seven games over three years at Armstrong after the program had been winless the previous three years, and led Louisa to its first playoff victory in the school's 60-plus-year history. He reached the playoffs three years at Louisa, reached the state championship game in 2006 and went 10-0 in the regular season this past year before losing in the second round of the playoffs to the two-time defending state champions.
"We have a track record of being successful, so I'm going to follow that recipe," Fischer said. "I may change the ingredients here and there."
The school administration asked the coaching staff and former and current players what they wanted in a coach. "They wanted a proven winner, they wanted someone with experience as a head coach, and they wanted somebody who built programs before, and he fit it to a tee," said St. James athletic director Paula Lee.
Lee said there were more than 110 applicants and nine were interviewed by a 10-person committee. "He was our first interview, and with his enthusiasm and his energy, I wanted to play for him when he left," Lee said. "He's a hard act to follow."
The Horry County school board created the physical education/strength coach position for Fischer. "We've needed that here so I think our whole program will benefit from that," Lee said.
Fischer plans to meet with the team's existing coaches next week and evaluate the staff, though he doesn't anticipate bringing anyone with him from Louisa. He oversaw both offense and defense at Louisa before handing over the defensive reins to a coordinator. "Here, I don't know yet," he said. "... I may make wholesale changes. Obviously we've got to change something. We have to do something radical and break some of these paradigms that are going on. It's my job to make those decisions, and I will if I think it's in the best interest of the kids."
Fischer plans to move with his wife, Pam, 16-year-old daughter Mackenzie and 6-year-old son Troy. Pam is an 18-year PE and health teacher who hasn't yet found work in Horry County. Fischer's parents intend to move to the area, as well.
"It's a life-changing decision for us and we didn't take it lightly," Fischer said. "There was a lot of prayer, a lot of faith. It's just right for us right now. ...
"Who doesn't want to live at the coast? That's always been something of huge interest to me."
Fischer's family has regularly vacationed in Topsail, N.C., and often made its way to Myrtle Beach. He also had a salesman for the area in Myrtle Beach High baseball coach Tim Christy, who was a Fischer assistant at Louisa.
Fischer said he knew of St. James High being built and kept tabs on the football coaching position. "When it came open this year I was like, 'Damn, this might be time,' " Fischer said.