HOLLIDAYSBURG - In 1999, Homer DeLattre was passed over twice in a matter of months to become the head football coach at Glendale High School.
It hurt him very much at the time, but today he looks at that disappointment philosophically.
"I think it was a blessing in disguise," DeLattre said. "God closed a door for me and opened up another at Corry. And here another door opened for me again. I took a chance on it, and I'm very happy."
This time, that door opened in Blair County, not far from his childhood home in southeastern Clearfield County. DeLattre, who spent the last decade turning around Corry's moribund program and making himself one of the more influential high school football coaches in the state, was hired by a 7-1 vote on Wednesday night to succeed John Barton at Hollidaysburg.
DeLattre, 39, also was hired to become the school's fulltime athletic director and strength and conditioning advisor at a total salary of $71,733.28. He'll begin at Hollidaysburg on July 1.
"Number one, it's about being close to our families. Me and my wife [the former Paula Hamilton] had grown up in the area. We've been away for about 12 years, and it's awesome to get back. As our parents grow old, they'll get to see our kids grow up, and that's very special to us," said DeLattre, a star player at Moshannon Valley High School in the early 1990s who is the father of four. "I know from talking to people this is one of the top positions not only in central Pennsylvania but in the entire state, to be at Hollidaysburg as athletic director and head football coach."
DeLattre has guided Corry - a Class AAA/AA program in Erie County - to a 52-64 record since taking the reins in 2002, but the Beavers, not a traditional power, have finished above .500 in six of the last seven seasons and tied a school record by posting nine wins in 2010. Corry was 8-3 last year.
DeLattre also has been heavily involved in promoting his program through the Internet and social media and is a member of several scholastic coaches associations: He's the current vice-president of the PSFCA, was selected to be a head coach in last year's East West All-Star Game and he learned of his hiring as coach of the Golden Tigers while driving home from a meeting of the Northwest Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association, which he started.
"He proved he's not just a football coach. He's a well-respected teacher and a well-respected member of his community," current Hollidaysburg AD Bob Gildea said. "When contacting his references, the phrase that was commonly used was 'a man of integrity.'"
DeLattre was selected from a pool of 22 applicants that included some former coaches from the region and even people from five other states, including Florida and Ohio.
"The biggest thing was he was at a program at Corry that had issues with losing, and he was bringing the program forward," said board member Troy Keefer, part of the athletic committee that recommended DeLattre. "I struggled [choosing between] two individuals, but I wanted a guy that already experienced that process and can get Hollidaysburg where it needs to be. We had a lot of candidates that were very, very qualified, and Homer just seemed to stand out."
Hollidaysburg assistant coach R.J. Albarano and Norwin assistant Allan Balinsky were the other two finalists. Brady Leahey cast the lone dissenting vote.
"I thought R.J. did a very good job. I went with him because of what he already put into this program and what he has with the kids," Leahey said. "The ability that he can start immediately was another plus. I think he's very passionate and energetic about becoming a head coach, and I felt he interviewed well enough that he deserved that chance."
However, several members of the committee said DeLattre's experience as an athletic director at Corry worked to his advantage, as well.
"I think that everyone was in agreement that my tenure as athletic director was not a long-term deal, simply because of my career aspirations," said Gildea, who is considered a candidate to take over as the district superintendent when Paul Gallagher retires at the end of the school year.
DeLattre intends to meet with the Golden Tigers on Friday and anticipates being in Blair County at least three weekends before the end of the school year. He also plans to connect with his new team via conference calls.
As far as assistants, DeLattre will reach out to Barton and members of his staff to see if any of them have interest staying on board. One of his Corry assistants, Adam Walstrom, also has local ties and might be interested in moving back if he can find a job in the area.
DeLattre said he'll let his personnel dictate the style and scheme the Tigers will employ. Hollidaysburg finished 3-7 last season but made the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs and returns several top players, including a deep, talented group of sophomores.
"One thing the fans are going to get is a hard-working and dedicated group of guys," DeLattre said. "We're going to be very intense in our preparation. Our kids are going to be well-prepared going into every game. I know the WPIAL is something new for the program, and they've had a great program. We want to put ourselves in Heinz Field [for the District 7 championship]."