Catholic moves forward with co-head coaches

By Steve Williams

It is rare – perhaps even unprecedented – that a Knoxville high school football team will have interim co-head coaches this coming season.

But that’s what has happened at Knoxville Catholic, where Steve Matthews and Philip Shadowens have taken hold of the reins.

It wasn’t by design. Dean Cokinos was hired as Catholic’s new head coach in December not long after Korey Mobbs resigned. Cokinos coached the Fighting Irish through spring practice and a scrimmage against Murfreesboro Oakland. But surprisingly, he announced he was resigning last week reportedly due to family circumstances.

Matthews and Shadowens were already on board as Catholic’s offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively. All they had to do was add co-interim head coach to their title.

It could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Cokinos’ resume sparkled with past positions on the pro and college levels. But while he had been an assistant coach at top-notch prep programs in Middle Tennessee, he had never been a high school head coach.

Matthews served as Catholic’s head coach from 2013-2021. He guided the Fighting Irish to two state championships (Class 4A in 2015 and Class 5A in 2017) before resigning as head coach in April 2021. Matthews compiled a 74-27 record during his tenure as Catholic’s head coach.

Shadowens has coached for nearly 30 years. He started his career at Smyrna in 1994 and led the Bulldogs to Class 5A state championships in 2006 and 2007. He took over the William Blount program in 2015 but didn’t have a winning season in seven years. After coaching Eagleton College & Career Academy, a new school in Blount County, last year, he resigned to take the Catholic job in February.

The task at hand will not be easy. Catholic has not won a playoff game and has a 7-13 region record since reclassifying into TSSAA’s Division II-AAA in 2019.

Matthews is optimistic.

“We’ve got a great staff put together and are excited about where we’re headed,” he said.

Steve also sees “a ton of positives” with the current arrangement of having co-head coaches.

“I think we are two experienced guys,” he added. “Two heads are better than one, as they say. We’ve worked great together this short time we’ve been together. I think the players have responded well these first few days. I think the people are excited about where we are headed.”

What about going for one or two points with the game on the line? Who will make that call?

“That’ll be game time decisions,” Matthews said. “In this day and age with the head phones, that will be stuff we’ll discuss and work out as we go.”

Shadowens coached at Blackman six seasons after being at Smyrna. He has retired from public schools after 32 total years coaching.

Philip also feels good with the co-head coach arrangement.

“This is about our kids,” he said. “At this late moment we decided this was the best way to do it for our kids.

“I’ll probably run the defense from the booth. Coach Matthews will probably be on the field running the offense.”

When Shadowens was asked about the scenario of who would make the call of going for one or two points in a crucial situation, he answered: “We’ll be on the headsets together. I trust Coach Matthews and he trusts me. There’s never going to be a conflict or an issue with Coach Matthews and me. We think alike.”

Matthews and Shadowens have been running practices all summer since spring practice was over, including overseeing the work in the weight room and 7 on 7 play.

Shadowens summed up by saying the coaching staff is going to work hard and do what it takes to win football games and develop the guys into great young men. “If you do things the right way, success will come,” he added.