Harding named new coach at Boys & Girls

Boys & Girls is staying within the school for its newest football coach.

Assistant coach Clive Harding, who has been with the team for the past five years, is the new head coach of the Kangaroos, he confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com Friday morning. Harding, 47, replaces former coach Barry O'Connor, who was dismissed as the coach of the Brooklyn-based school on Wednesday.

"I'm definitely excited about it," said Harding, a substitute teacher at the school. "It's a team that we think can win some games."

Harding had a meeting with Boys & Girls principal Bernard Gassaway Friday morning, one that went well according to Harding, and the two talked about issues at the school and how they can work to change the outlook of Boys & Girls. Harding said the meeting was more education than anything, but he was informed he was the new coach.

The Kangaroos needed a new coach after the school dismissed former coach O'Connor. Harding said he was told that it was an administrative decision based O'Connor as a teacher but he did not want to go into specifics because he has a close relationship with O'Connor. Harding has been an assistant for the past five years under O'Connor.

"It's definitely bittersweet to work for the guy for five years and spend a lot of time to get to know him and his family and he gets to know me and my family and we have a lot of the same interests and to lose somebody like that, it's hurtful. I feel bad for him," Harding said. "We're still going to talk and see each other about every day. It's not like we're not going to have a relationship. He still cares about the programs and the kids."

After being an assistant coach for 16 years, 11 of which were at Sheepshead Bay and the last five at Boys & Girls, Harding now undertakes his first head coach job.

He maintains that there will be no change with him at the helm and it will not be a difficult transition as he takes over the team. He's served as the team's defensive coordinator, as well as helping out with offense, and has been the coach in charge of academics on the team, so he will still be keeping a keen eye on his players' grades.

Harding said that the football team is academically the best team at the school and he ha about 17 to 18 players who have made the Honor Roll.

"We have to prepare kids to go to college. My thing as a coach, it's always been this way, I'm not preparing you to play college football. I'm preparing you to go to college," Harding said. "You play college football, that's fine. My job is to get you into college. I'll be doing myself and Boys & Girls and the kids a disservice if the only thing I thought about was you playing college football."

Boys & Girls, which went 5-4 last year and won a playoff game, opens its season at home on Sept. 10 against Curtis in a matchup of two of the top teams in the Public Schools Athletic League. While the Kangaroos lost their best player from last year in Wilbert Lee, who is now at UConn, Harding is positive about his team.

"This team right now is very together," Harding said. "I think they're getting to the point where they understand that everything is done as a team. Individual goals have to be second to your team goals and I think they understand that point right now where last year's team, I don't think they really got that. As success goes as a team, individual accolades will come."