HELENA — There are a few items on the Carroll College football team’s Christmas list.
At the top of it are a few new assistant coaches.
“We had nine coaches on staff last year,” coach Mike Van Diest said. “I’d like to get to 10.”
Van Diest said he hopes to bring two or three new faces in by the end of January. Depending on the coaches hired, there could be some staffing realignment to follow. Van Diest was unsure which assistant positions would be shifted.
“I have coaches around the country calling me and emailing me,” Van Diest said. “It’s like recruiting. You have to recruit a staff.”
Van Diest said he’s been fielding interest over the past two weeks and expects that to continue through Christmas.
Van Diest, offensive line and strength coach Jim Hogan and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Nick Howlett logged their 19th seasons this past fall.
Shorter tenured assistants on last year's team were Alex Kastens (three seasons) on the defensive line and as a video coordinator, Tyler Emmert (nine seasons) as the wide receivers coach, Alex Pfannenstiel (second) as the tight end coach Chris Riley (first) as the running backs coach, Marcus Mayo (second) as defensive backs coach and Isaiah Cech (first) as a defensive assistant.
Mayo and Riley will not be back coaching with Carroll next season, Carroll athletics confirmed. Another source told the Independent Record that Emmert will not be back for a 10th season.
The Carroll athletic website currently lists Van Diest, Hogan, Howlett, Kastens, Emmert, Pfannenstiel and Cech on staff.
Some of the Saints had some fun with the youngest assistant last season.
A season ago Cech assisted Van Diest and Kasten with the front seven. Only slightly removed from his playing days, Cech’s teammates joked he was taking over the secondary.
Saints players wore t-shirts promoting Cech as the new secondary coach toward the end of last season. The t-shirt featured a cartoon emoji of Cech’s face and read “Cechondary” coach. One player deadpanned in a press conference and said Cech was the new coach.
Van Diest on Wednesday said “those were a fun thing by our players, a play on words with him,” but reiterated that his staff will be rounding into shape over the next month.
“We’ll adjust within our staff,” he said. “We’re not sure how we’ll realign.”
Van Diest said his staff intends to continue coaching special teams by committee. Van Diest will continue to oversee kickoff coverage, punt return and punt coverage. Howlett will work with the kick return group. And Hogan will remain with the field goal protection unit.
“I think it’s good to have everybody involved,” Van Diest said. “When you don’t have resources to have guys dedicated like they do at the FBS level where you can have somebody designated just for that. Our guys have to help out in every way.”
While the Saints are busy recruiting new players, Van Diest will be busy recruiting new coaches, too.