WOODSIDE — Stanley Burris has worked with his share of coaches in his two decades as a high school football coach.
The former Dover High and Delaware State offensive lineman would like to think he’s learned some things as an assistant.
And now Polytech High is giving Burris the chance to show what he can do as a head coach for the first time.
The Polytech School Board officially hired the 43-year-old Burris as its football head coach on Tuesday night.
Burris replaces Kevin Smith, who stepped down at the end of the school year to become the school’s athletic director.
“If you’re a smart assistant, you pay attention to what the head man does,” said Burris. “You pick up as many things as you can about what they do well. Sometimes they do things well but not necessarily the way you would do them.
“Now is my opportunity to see if all those ideas I’ve been rolling around in my head for the past 15 years or so will actually work the way I think they will.”
An inductee into Delaware State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013, Burris has been an assistant coach at Lake Forest, Middletown (twice), Polytech (twice), Dover and Smyrna.
Burris was the offensive line coach on Smith’s first staff at Polytech two years. But he left to take a job teaching science at Smyrna, where he also coached last school year.
Smith knew Burris liked it at Polytech and would welcome the chance to come back to the school.
“He did a tremendous job with the ‘O’ line when I first moved up here,” said Smith. “He’s very organized. ... He understands the challenge of being in the big conference that we’re in.
“You get so excited when you get your first job. You pay your dues. You start from the ground up — from a volunteer assistant all the way up to a paid position. The next thing you know, you get a chance to run your own program. It’s a very exciting time.”
The Panthers finished 9-11 in their two seasons under Smith, including a 5-5 mark in 2013. They’d been just 10-40 in their five previous seasons.
Polytech, though, did lose a pretty big class of 14 seniors from last fall. Burris is also being hired just a month before the start of preseason camp.
Burris does plan on having most of the same assistants from last season while Smith has also been around to keep things organized. A two-time all-MEAC selection at DelState, Burris will also be Polytech’s offensive coordinator.
“He and I have met two or three times already,” said Smith. “He wants to keep things status quo. He doesn’t want to shock the kids with a bunch of changes. But he’ll slowly start incorporating his philosophies.”
“There are certain things that will probably be rearranged for next year,” said Burris. “But I am very, very grateful that this year, things like the summer lifting program and the camp at the end of summer are already set up and ready to go.
“I think we did a lot of good things to get the program going (in 2013) in a better direction. I’m really looking forward to try to continue what he’s done. Instead of a 5-5, 6-4 team, hopefully, in the next few years, you’ll see Poly going 7-3 and 8-2 and trying to get into the (state) tournament.”