Whether the football players like it or not, Thomas Maher is returning to PCC as the new football head coach, but he faces an uphill battle on and off the field.
Maher will replace current head coach Thom Kaumeyer, who many players fought to keep last Wednesday at the Board of Trustees meeting.
Maher coached at PCC from 1996-2004 before being fired and was brought back in 2005 as a receivers coach through the offseason and the first game of the season before being laid off again. His teams finished 0-10 and 3-7 in his last two years as head coach. The 2005 team finished the season with seventeen players on the roster and won only one game, which was the game Maher coached in.
After leaving PCC, he went to Compton College to take over the offense and improved their record dramatically.
He returns to PCC as a coach after running the offensive side at Fullerton College for eight seasons. At Fullerton, Maher coached his teams to five division titles, an SCFA championship in 2013 and were runners-up for the state title finishing the season No. 3 in the state with a 12-1 record.
Maher knows how it is to be a coach and he said he isn’t scared to lose and that people can’t always fear failure.
“So understand me, I’m humble about this whole situation,” Maher said. “Right now, they want the program to heal a little bit. My goal is to return to the National Division as soon as possible. I want to compete – it’s in my nature. It’s not about ‘just give me my victory,’ it’s about competing.”
His resume includes three Mission Conference-North Division titles, which he considers a big deal. He also won two titles with Mt. San Antonio College, where he coached for five seasons.
Maher had the most success coaching at PCC from 2000 to 2002, when his team went 23-9 combined and were in the top 3 for highest scoring teams in PCC history.
In 2001, the team finished with a 10-1 record and won the South County Bowl. It was also PCC’s first conference championship in 34 years.
Women’s basketball head coach Joe Peron, who came to PCC the same time Maher did, joked that when they were fresh here and things were rough, they would work so late that the facilities personnel had to tell them to go home.
“Winners win and losers lose,” Peron said. “Tom Maher is in that category of being a winner, from my coaching standpoint. When I started here, he started here 20 years ago … we were both working through the seasons and off seasons until 10 or 11 at night and used to bet who would leave first. We were trying to make our teams successful and win. That’s how I know Tom to be a gruesome, dedicated coach who would do what he can for his team and spend the time researching so he can be a good coach and win.”
Maher has recently received backlash from the football players for transferring into the coaching position when they feel it should have been opened to the public for applications.
When asked to comment on what he plans to do to build that trust again with this new group, Maher declined to comment and said that his coaching experience speaks for itself.
The process for transferring into an open position in the faculty collective bargaining agreement states that an employee must meet the minimum qualifications for the position and if the applicant does, they meet with a selection committee including the dean of the department and four members of the hiring committee.
Maher has 27 years of coaching under his belt and has transferred close to 200 athletes to the 4-year level.
Reaching out to Athletic Director Tony Barbone for comment resulted in his deference to Executive Director for Strategic Communications and Marketing Alex Boekelheide.
Boekelheide spoke highly of Maher and backed the hiring committee’s decision.
“The situation speaks for itself,” he said. “The people who made the decision on the panel made it because they feel he is fit for the position. It’s no secret we’ve had a rough two years, but he brings some legacy to the table. We really think he can do the job.”
According to Superintendent President Dr. Rajen Vurdien, his position is effective July 1, 2016. But Maher said he has already started recruiting players and assistant coaches and also plans on speaking to the current football team to figure out what his needs are on the field.