Feb 13, 2013 9:22 AM by MTN News - Richie Melby

Simms school board votes to hire O'Brien as coach

GREAT FALLS - The school board in Simms has voted to hire Joe O'Brien as its coach.

O'Brien, a former Montana State University assistant coach, got the job after a 4-3 vote by the school board.

"I really feel relieved that the process is over," stated O'Brien following the decision. "I felt like there were a lot of things that happened during this process that weren't necessary. I never wanted to bring any of that to a community, or people, or anything. All I ever wanted, I was asked if I would entertain being a coach out here and I said yes because it's my passion, it's what I do."

Last week, dozens of community members in Simms turned up for a public forum on Monday night to voice their concerns and opinions regarding the possible hiring of O'Brien.

"This board is a diverse board and we have had heated discussions before," explained Sun River School Board member Russ Bloom, "but once the vote is taken that is the policy of the board and administration and the school. If the vote would have went the other way, I would have been the first to say, that's the policy and we need to support that."

O'Brien was arrested in 2003 on felony drug charges after being accused of possessing methamphetamines with the intent to sell.

The former collegiate and NFL athlete served more than two years in prison as well as six years on federal probation - but says he has since turned his life around and wants to return to coaching.

During last week's public meeting, O'Brien said, "The reason that I want to coach here is because of the kids. I almost wish that I didn't get to coach them for those five days last year so I wouldn't be attached to them. The purest, most passionate thing I've ever done is coached the game of football. Or played it. The one thing that I can maybe give these kids, is something a little different than football. Maybe it's a life experience."

In an online poll last week, a majority of respondents felt that O'Brien had "paid the price" and should be given the opportunity to coach.


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