David Bennett has officially accepted the athletics director and head football coaching position at River Bluff High School in Lexington.
Bennett, currently the Socastee athletics director and former Coastal Carolina football coach, will remain with the Braves through at least graduation and work toward building the River Bluff coaching staffs and building the sports programs on weekends. Despite most people believing it would be a college opening that would pull him away from Socastee, Bennett said this particular high school position was too good to pass up.
“I’ve been there and I’ve done that,” Bennett said of college jobs. “I’ve been a head coach for the last 16 years. I got my first head college job when I was 33.
“I probably wouldn’t have gone to another high school. I probably wouldn’t have gone to another college.”
Bennett, who was officially hired at Socastee in August after a four-month process to be re-certified as a teacher, said the River Bluff position was also appealing in that he can bring in all of his own people. Former Coastal Carolina offensive coordinator and long-time South Carolina high school coach Gary Smallen will join Bennett as an assistant athletics director and assistant football coach.
He likely won’t be the only familiar coach to join Bennett’s new staff when the team takes the field for the first time in 2014.
So far, River Bluff Principal Luke Clamp has hired only three coaches. That leaves about 15 head coaching positions to fill at a school that when it opens in the fall will likely be in Class AAA, if not the state’s largest class.
For Bennett, it will be the first time since the fall of 2001 that he has not been a part of the Grand Strand. That year, he was hired to build the football program at Coastal Carolina.
He had approximately 18 months to do just that, and the product on the field out of the gate showed. He led the Chanticleers to the Football Championship Subdivision postseason in the team’s fourth year, the second-fastest progression from inaugural season to playoffs. In nine years at CCU, he was 63-39.
Overall, between his time at Coastal and seven seasons at Catawba College, Bennett’s combined coaching record was 126-56.
He was fired from CCU in December 2011, and he eventually received a $925,000 buyout from the university. A month after he agreed to the buyout, he was targeted for the position at Socastee.
Bennett said he was approached by multiple colleges and asked to apply for openings, although he did not elaborate which schools. However, he was not interested in any of them until after meeting with Clamp.
“Coaching is coaching,” Bennett said. “There are guys coaching high school ball who can coach college ball. The bottom line is coaching is coaching. It’s about leading kids.”
Bennett said his wife, Melanie, and son, Jeb, will head to Lexington at the same time he does, which is expected to happen sometime in June. At that point, the Bennett legacy in Horry County will officially come to an end, at least in terms of coaching.
He hopes to continue his Collin’s Kids charity, a product of the David Bennett Foundation. Collins Kids has helped raised funds for kids in the area since it was founded in 2006.
“It’s just hard to leave home,” Bennett said. “And this place feels like home.”