Homecoming head man

By Alex Leichenger

In the little-visited third floor of Taper Gymnasium, football coach Vic Eumont spends most of his day laboring. In the secluded room, the blinds shield the view of the basketball court below, a fan blows cool air, stacks of papers line the table in front of the film projector, and scrawlings of offensive and defensive formations cover the whiteboard.

At the time of this scene last year, the Wolverines were coming off two blowout victories to open their season, both of which were shutouts. The Wolverines’ next contest was their stunning 24-20 Homecoming upset of Alemany, a perennial local powerhouse.

Eumont and the Wolverines will try to recreate some of the same magic when they square off with Cathedral at Homecoming Oct. 23.

“The great thing about last year was that we had to push some fans out of the way to shake hands with the other team,” Eumont said. “That was hard to do because everyone was piling on top of each other. That’s the closest thing to tearing down the goalpost we’ve ever had.”

Still, in a country where many schools live and die with their football teams, some coaches would be frustrated with a school like Harvard-Westlake. Athletes have multiple commitments, and football does not sit on a special pedestal of importance above other sports.

“Football here at this school is a little tougher because you’ve got great students who are also involved in other club sports that go year-round,” Eumont said. “So there is a thing that limits us some ways, but [on the other hand] we end up getting players that really want to play football, and they’re good kids.”

Before coming to Harvard-Westlake, Eumont was the head coach at Jesuit High School in New Orleans. The school produced two future NFL draft picks during his tenure and it was a place where football sits on a pedestal, he said.

Eumont compared Jesuit to Loyola, which plays in the Serra League with larger teams like Alemany.

Eumont has also been an assistant coach at the collegiate level, making stops at University of New Mexico, Louisiana-Lafayette and his alma mater, Tulane University. As a college coach, Eumont said he was constantly working, whether he was recruiting, coaching in practice or coaching in a game.

But along with winning, working at high-profile schools comes with the “headaches” of dealing with some players. Often athletes came to play for Eumont because someone promised them they would flourish in that situation. Many ended up being bad fits, Eumont said, and blamed it on him. He experiences none of the same problems now.

“We don’t promise anybody anything other than we’re going to coach him hard, and it’s his job to come out and work,” he said.

Eumont’s desire for a more stable situation can also be attributed to an unexpected personal upheaval he faced just five over years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

The entire first floor of Jesuit was flooded, including Eumont’s office. The coach’s home was also flooded, destroying almost all of his belongings.

With Jesuit closed and his home uninhabitable, Eumont and his wife, Phyllis, temporarily moved into their daughter’s home in Los Angeles.

He began to search for volunteer coaching opportunities in the area, leading him to get in touch with Harvard-Westlake head coach Jonathan Himmebauch.

“I volunteered to come here because I didn’t want to sit around my daughter’s house and think about [Hurricane Katrina],” Eumont said. “I just wanted to coach, so I was able to come here, and I coached actually at the Middle School and did some scouting for varsity.”

When Jesuit reopened, Eumont returned to Louisiana intent on starting the 2006 season.

“I had three pairs of shorts, three coaching shirts and a pair of tennis shoes, and I was planning on going back to work,” he said.

However, Eumont was soon met by yet another surprise. Himmebauch called to inform him that he had taken a job on the San Diego State coaching staff. So it was back to California again for Eumont, only this time as the new head coach of the Wolverines.

“When Harvard-Westlake called, Phyllis and I felt this was a great opportunity to be a part of a great school and be near our daughters and grandsons,” Eumont said. “It was too good to pass up.”

And his latest coaching job is far from a kickback tour of the Southern California beaches. In fact, Eumont may get just as much of a workout at these practices as the players on his team. He is never timid about raising his voice at a player, but he said his philosophy is to treat players equally and “coach them up” rather than break them down.

“There is no such thing as working 110 percent, but if you can get someone to work 90 percent, that’s one heck of a player,” Eumont said.

There are challenges ahead for Wolverine football in the Mission League, but after facing tumult in his personal life and adjustment to a new city and new football culture, Eumont has embraced his latest job.

“I’m very happy here and I think this a great place and a great opportunity to just coach and enjoy coaching,” he said. “I hope to die on a sideline.”