Staff Photo: John Bohn Mountain View first-year head football coach Doug Giacone talks with quarterback Crew Perry during a morning practice session.
JOHNS CREEK -- A head coaching change can sometimes be a major adjustment to a high school football program, especially a relatively new one like Mountain View.
But while the Bears had just gotten used to the way Tim Hardy had established their program after its first three seasons before he left to take the job at Greater Atlanta Christian in Feburary, the transition to new coach Doug Giacone has been relatively seamless.
In fact, with Giacone having been on the Mountain View staff as defensive coordinator from the program's first day, preparations for the Bears' fourth season -- third as a varsity program -- have been pretty much business as usual throughout the spring and summer.
"Tim and I are very close friends, and there were a lot of things done my first three years here that, philosophically, were things we came to a decision to together," Giacone said. "Philosophically, we were in tune in a lot of things. So, there's not been much of a culture shock for the kids because there's a lot of carryover in what my expectations are and what Coach Hardy's were."
Having to get used to someone new after losing the only coach they had ever known could have made this a difficult summer for the Bears, especially the seniors who have been in the program from the day Mountain View opened.
However, getting a known commodity like Giacone has made the adjustment the players have had to make far less traumatic.
"It hasn't been that big of a transition because he's been with us since Day 1," said senior running back Marvin Elam, the Bears' leading rusher last season with 764 yards and 10 TDs on 161 carries. "So, the players are used to him. We basically know what he wants us to do. He's bringing a little different strategy to the game. Otherwise, pretty much everything is the same.
"It was a big relief knowing he was coming in. Like I said, he was here from Day 1. We trust him and we trust what he can do with us."
Of course, the players aren't the only ones who have had to adjust to the situation.
As this is his first head coaching job after several seasons as an assistant, Giacone is quickly learning the differences in the two jobs.
"You think you have an understanding of what it means to sit in that office and sit in that chair," said Giacone, who has been an assistant coach on both the college and high school levels, with stops at Georgia Southern, Millikin University, Riverside Military Academy and Grayson before coming to Mountain View. "But until you actually undertake it, you really have no idea all the things being a head coach entails -- from organizing the staff to fundraising to youth league to all those different facets that go into running a program, let alone building a program, with us getting ready to start Year 4.
"Though it's been challenging, it's been a lot of fun getting to compile some new faces and really be able to become more involved in the offense than I have been in the past. I'm looking forward the things we've been starting to build and maintain."
Of course, Giacone wants to maintain a lot of the standards Hardy established -- especially since the Bears have made steady progress in their first two varsity seasons.
At the same time, he has worked throughout the summer to put his own unique stamp on the Mountain View program.
"There's some elements of things that as you get into summer work, strength and conditioning stuff, that I've added in that were things I learned when I was at Grayson High School (as an assistant coach to) Coach (Mickey) Conn and those guys -- things that I felt really helped further along their success there," Giacone said. "I've tried to implement and do some things that we'd done ... at Grayson."
Giacone and the Bears are hoping those subtle changes are enough to help them take the next step in their climb to improvement after going from two wins to three in a much more competitive 2011 campaign that included a 9-7 upset win over Mill Creek.
"We're ready," Elam said. "We now know we can compete with anybody in our region. That win (last season) against Mill Creek showed us a lot. It showed everybody that you can't sleep on us. We came out ready to play and ready to compete with everybody."
Perhaps, but Giacone says one of his biggest tasks in preparing the Bears in his first season as head coach will be to strike the balance between focusing on the here and now and looking farther ahead.
"The biggest thing we're trying to do is make sure as we continue to take some steps forward that we don't lose sight of our goal, which is to build a consistent program -- not just a flash in the pan and not somebody that from year in and year out, you're riding a roller coaster," Giacone said. "You want to have that level of consistency that allows you to compete for a playoff spot every year.
"It's exciting, but I try to take it one day at a time and be very task-oriented in what we're doing and take incremental steps ... without putting the cart in front of the horse. I think sometimes you can get too involved with what's down the road and forget about the opportunities that are right in front of you."