Tony Miller has been sleeping soundly ever since deciding to hire Garon Belser as the head football coach at North Port High earlier this week.
The athletic director announced the hiring of the 28-year-old former Bobcats offensive lineman on Friday afternoon, bringing to end a months-long search that spanned the entire spring season.
“I woke up this morning and told my wife, ‘This last three or four days is probably the best sleep I’ve had,’” Miller said. “We interviewed him on Tuesday and I think me and (principal) Shannon Fusco were like, ‘OK, we’re good.’”
Miller said the administration at North Port was in search of a candidate who would stick around. Belser will mark the seventh head coach for the Bobcats since their inaugural season in 2002 and the third coach in the past three years — a trend that Belser said he wants to change.
“I want to be here as long as they will allow me to be here,” said Belser, who was a Sun Preps All-Area offensive lineman in 2011 and went on to start for three-plus seasons at Fairmont State University in West Virginia. “I’m not looking further beyond what we have going on now.
“My aspirations are to build this program into something I envisioned, even as a player.”
Belser earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Fairmont State with an intention to pursue a career in law enforcement.
However, he couldn’t stay away from coaching.
He served as the director of football operations, tight ends coach and assistant offensive line coach at his alma mater from 2015-19 before taking a lateral job at Alderson Broaddus University, also in West Virginia.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the fall season and left Belser without a job — bringing him back to the Sarasota area this past October.
Looking to coach again, Belser joined the North Port staff this spring season as the offensive line coach and impressed right away.
“I worked with him and after a few days I started noticing some things about him,” Miller said. “I was like, ‘He’s good. He knows his stuff.’ So I started having some conversations on the side with (interim head coach Matt Pryer) about what he thought. He’s young, he’s energetic, he’s an alumnus. I told Mrs. Fusco, ‘I think we hired the person who is going to be the coach when I retire.’”
After ending the season early due to “safety concerns” by the North Port coaches and administration and finishing with a 3-6 record, the Bobcats had a strong spring season as they beat DeSoto County, 49-27, in the annual spring game this past month.
His involvement in spring practice along with the enthusiasm he generated from players made Belser an obvious candidate as May turned to June.
“I think two to three minutes after he was hired the football team’s group chat was blowing up,” said rising-senior defensive end Greg Cole. “Everyone was like, ‘Yes!’ and ‘We got a good guy!’ Stuff like that. The whole team was excited.
“With him being here in the spring everyone already has a feel for him and knows what he’s about. Going into the summer now knowing that he’s our head coach though? That gets me fired up.”
Belser is the second former Bobcat to become a head coach at the school — joining boys soccer coach Joey Sorbino, along with a few assistant coaches on the girls soccer and football teams as well.
“It’s great to have one of our own, to have somebody who’s from here who knows the community and knows the school,” Miller said. “I mean, he described this as his dream job.
“There’s no one we’ve ever interviewed who described this as their dream job. For him to say that and to really mean it, he’s gonna put a lot into it. I hope that I get to stay in this position long enough to see this program grow and for Garon to become a John Peacock or a Jordan Ingman, a staple in our community.”