Banko is new ESJ football coach

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2011

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – Phillip Banko was officially named the new athletic director and head football coach of East St. John High School following a unanimous vote by the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board Tuesday.

Only seven members of the board were present for the morning meeting. Patrick Sanders, Russell Jack, Albert Burl III and Rodney Nicholas, who have been some of the most vocal critics of the selection process, were all absent from the proceedings.

Burl blamed his absence on a change to the meeting time of which he was not aware until it was too late.

“I had a previous engagement,” said Burl. “At the last meeting they said the meeting would be at 6 p.m.”

Burl said some School Board members were not informed of the time change. He added time changes are supposed to be approved by the board and hinted it was a matter he would address in the future.

He said he had not yet had a chance to meet Banko.

Sanders, who also has not met the new coach, said he also had a scheduling conflict.

Sanders is a funeral director, so he explained he cannot always schedule things around his job.

“Duty calls,” he said.

Of Superintendent Courtney Millet’s recommendation of Banko, Sanders said, “It went through the process of a committee. I’m going to have to respect the committee’s decision. I wish him the best.”

Those who were present at the meeting got the chance to see Banko accept his new position with enthusiasm.

“I’m very flattered, very honored and very excited,” said Banko. “We’ll make leaders of tomorrow and champions of today.”

Banko said he intends to take a universal approach to the job and plans to work with junior high athletic programs as well as the parish’s Department of Recreation.

“This community needs to come together, and it’s going to,” he said.

Banko seemed to enjoy across-the-board support from those board members present.

“You certainly have some big shoes to fill,” said Gerald Keller. “We certainly expect a lot out of you, and we’re excited to have you on our staff.”

Keith Jones added, “I’m there every Friday night. We have no doubt that you’re going to do a great job here.”

Millet recommended Banko for the position on the advice of the selection committee.

Banko was a former defensive coordinator at East St. John during 2007 and 2008 and was most recently defensive coordinator at Ponchatoula High School. He has also spent time coaching for the University of Miami and the Cleveland Browns of the NFL.

The selection committee, consisting of Assistant Superintendent Herbert Smith, ESJ Principal Patricia Triche, Saints special teams coach and LaPlace resident Greg McMahon, community member Herbert Carter and Director of Human Resources Leigh Ann Beard, spent the past several weeks going through applications and interviewing candidates for the position. The initial group of 21 was first whittled to eight and then to three. The other finalists for the position were ESJ Interim Athletic Director Ronald Barrilleaux and Donaldsonville High School head coach Terence Williams.

Banko will take the position last filled by Larry Dauterive, who resigned amidst controversy late last year.

Since his last stint as a Wildcats coach, the school’s athletic facilities have been greatly improved with an expanded field house and renovated stadium.

“We set you up for success,” said Keller.

In other business from Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a new property insurance policy for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

At $824,000, this year’s premium represents a more-than-$80,000 savings over last year.

Executive Director of Business and Finance Felix Boughton said the saving came as a result of the district having its property newly appraised.