Whenever anyone asked Larry French who he thought would make a good football coach at Danville, the Boyle County coach always had one name — Clay Clevenger.
French gave Clevenger his first high school job in 2006 on his staff at Lincoln County when Clevenger ran the offense for him after spending the five previous seasons as an assistant coach at the University of the Cumberlands.
“He did a nice job for us. He ran the offense and handled the kids well,” French said. “I have nothing but high praise for that young man. I think he is an excellent coach, and he’s an outstanding person to go along with it. He relates well to young people. He is able to push them the right way.”
Now Clevenger will be doing that at Danville. He was hired as Sam Harp’s successor on Monday after compiling a 45-27-1 mark in six seasons at Henderson County, including nine-win seasons the last four years.
Clevenger, 35, played at Danville from 1992-95. He was a two-way all-state selection as a senior lineman and finalist for the Kentucky’s Mr. Football. He played on two state championship teams under Harp and Danville went 55-3 in Clevenger’s four seasons.
“I think Clay has been wanting to get back to this area for a couple of years now, especially after he had his first child. His wife is from here and it will be a good move for him and his family. I know both sets of grandparents wanted it to happen,” French said.
But how hard will it be following Harp, a coach who won seven state titles and 276 games in 25 years at Danville before leaving to take a job in Lebanon, Tenn., to be closer to his daughter and grandchildren?
“I think it is a good situation any time you go into a program as established as the one at Danville and has the tradition Danville does,” French said. “Clay is his own person. He doesn’t have to worry about who was before him or who will be after him. He has a job to do and will do it to the best of his ability. He just has to work hard and let the chips fall where they do.
“I think since he left Lincoln and went to Henderson to run his own program that he has an even better feel for what high school kids can do and cannot do. That comes with experience and how to handle kids, and parents. He has gotten that experience. He did a great job at Henderson. He got them going again and made them competitive. He will do a great job at Danville.”
French should know because he’s known Clevenger since his wife was his kindergarten teacher. The Boyle coach says the Danville-Boyle rivalry won’t impact how he feels about Clevenger.
“You just go and play the football game. You play as hard as you can and coach as hard as you can and then when it is over, you shake hands,” French said. “Our friendship goes back a long way. I think he will help Danville’s program. He will work hard, no doubt about it. I wish him all the success in the world.”
And French does plan to be coaching against Clevenger. The Boyle coach says he has no timetable for retirement because he’s enjoying what he does too much to quit.
“I go from day to day,” French joked. “Right now, I still enjoy it. As long as I am healthy and can be a positive contributor, I want to stay with it. I have got to have something to do. I’ve always enjoyed the coaching part and working with young people. I still think I have something to bring, but you never know what the next day could bring. But right now I still plan on coaching.”