End of an era: Adrian Snow steps down as West Forsyth football coach after 15 years
Published 4:57 pm Friday, November 11, 2022
Adrian Snow was still coaching ‘em up. Right until the final bell rang at 3:40 on Thursday afternoon to dismiss students and teachers for the extended weekend.
Members of the varsity and junior varsity football teams started filing in the Anderson Performing Arts Center at West Forsyth at 3:15.
Other than it being a team meeting, they weren’t sure of the details. Only a handful of people at that point knew: Snow, after 15 years as the Titans’ head coach, was about to announce to his players that he was stepping down.
“Give me three,” Snow said after he began asking the players to find a seat.
Three claps in unison from everyone in the auditorium. It has been a common practice that lets the players know they need to pay attention.
They sat silent. They listened.
Snow commanded the room as he started addressing his players. The words flowed flawlessly from his mouth. They were direct. They were honest. They showed how much he cared. There were no pauses. The emotion of the moment didn’t get to him. He was at peace with his decision.
A few minutes into the talk, he let them know that he was resigning.
There were plenty audible sighs of shock.
Kevin Spainhour, the principal at West, also spoke to the players. He assured them that he knew that Snow’s shoes would be big ones to fill, but that the search for a new coach would start immediately and that Snow implored him to “hire somebody better than me.”
Then Snow, for one final time, let his players knew how much he loved them all.
“Give me three,” he said again.
Three claps. In unison.
“I’ll always bleed green and gold.”
Then a steady flow of West Forsyth Titans lined up to offer Snow their thanks and their hugs to show their appreciation for everything he did for them. He reciprocated those gestures to every one of them.
“I’m at peace, wholeheartedly at peace,” Snow said after all the players had filed out of the PAC. “Now this morning, it was pretty rough. I read a devotion that had me crying like a baby before I even got to school. Once I got here, I had to get my wits about me. But I cried a few times during the day as I was telling a few people what was going on.”
Fifteen years as the head coach. A stint as an assistant coach. A hundred and twenty-two wins, the most for a football coach in school history. Four Central Piedmont 4-A Conference Championships. Eighty-eight players who went on to play in college. Immeasurable impact on countless other players and students to pass through the hallways at West Forsyth since Snow began his tenure in 2008.
That’s quite a legacy.
“I’m going to miss it, definitely,” Snow said. “I’m really going to miss all the people the most. The kids. The staff here. The administration. This community. They love football and they want to see you do well. And I think that the best thing we have done here is that we have made West Forsyth a better place. And that’s not to take anything away from the people who were here before us. But the goal is always to leave a place better than when you arrived, and that’s a hard to thing to do here. But that’s what these kids deserve and that’s what this school and community deserve. Just try to make it better for the kids. You want it to be to as good as it can be for them, and I hope that we’ve done a good job by them.”
Snow said that the decision has been percolating for the last year or so. He said that his bout with COVID-19 really opened his eyes and gave him a different perspective.
“Aug. 6, 2021, really changed my life,” Snow said. “And when I finally did go to the hospital, they told me twice when I was in there that I might die. I was never on a ventilator. But I was isolated. I could talk to my wife and my daughter on the phone but most of the time you are alone with your thoughts.”
Snow spent nearly two weeks in intensive care before being released on Aug. 24 and missed the first two games of the season.
“I think my wife and I started talking it about then,” he said. “We’ve talked countless hours about it since and when I made my decision to resign, she kept asking me, ‘are you sure?’”
That’s when Snow started to break down.
He paused to collect himself.
“Gina (Snow’s wife) has put up with a lot,” he said as he fought back tears. “So has our daughter. And she didn’t deserve it and she put up with it anyway. Coaches’ wives have a special place in heaven. They really do. Because their sacrifices are even bigger than the ones we make to do what we love to do.”
Snow collected himself enough for his wit to return.
“But hey, come August, she might be all torn up and tell me I need to go and find something to do,” he said with a laugh. “You should see my ‘honey do’ list already. Good Lord!”
Members of Snow’s coaching staff were standing in the back of the auditorium behind where the players were sitting.
Snow started the process of contacting them at the beginning of the week. He phoned each one individually to share the news.
“Did not see it coming at all,” said Jonathan McIntosh, the team’s defensive coordinator. McIntosh was also a player at West from 2002-2003 when Snow was the offensive line coach, which was his position coach. “I didn’t really know what to say. I was just quiet and taking it in. He actually just kept talking because I don’t think he wanted any silence. After a while I let him know I was happy for him and that I was proud of him and thanked him for everything he has done for me. This is my 14th year as a coach here now, and he has been the only person I have worked in football with. We’ve just become such good friends over the years. We just laugh all the time. I’m going to miss that the most.”
Brad Bovender is the team’s secondary coach and is the longest tenured assistant coach on the staff. Bovender also played at West and he and Snow are neighbors.
“He screamed at me the entire second half of our last game because I was trying to argue with the referees about a pass interference call,” Bovender said with a laugh. “He kept reminding me that that was his job and not mine. So, when he called me into his office to let me know the news, I just told him, ‘Great, so you spent our last game coaching together yelling at me the whole time.’ And we just had a good laugh about that.”
It was Bovender who called Snow to let him know the job was open after Chip Petree resigned after the 2007 season.
“Petree had just let us know he was leaving and a couple of minutes later, I called Adrian to tell him he needed to come home,” Bovender said. “And for the last 15 years, it’s been 365 days that we’ve been coming in and coaching football and shooting the breeze and we’ve just always been together. It’s a bittersweet day. We are more like brothers now. And sometimes, even families realize that they need some change. He feels very strongly that it’s time for him to move on and I definitely respect that. So many times, we’ve argued, we’ve fought, we’ve loved, we’ve encouraged, we’ve cared, we’ve done, we’ve laughed. We’re talking 15 years now. It’s kind of like being a brother. You’re fighting with him one minute and then you turn around and are defending him. Younger guys now want to X and O and draw on a board and call that coaching. Yes, that’s a part of it. But for the older guys, it’s definitely the relationships for us. This is my 22nd overall year here and those relationships stay.”
Kyle Willard played for Snow and has coached with him now the last several seasons.
“I honestly didn’t think this day would ever come,” Willard said. “I’ve got a lot of love for him and appreciate everything he has done for me from when I played for him to being a coach under him. I remember that first time he yelled at me as a coach, and it really caught me off guard. But after the game, he walked up to me and said, ‘hey, I love you’ and started smiling and laughing at me and that was a great lesson. What happens during the game happens, and afterwards, we’re all good. I’m happy for him that he gets to leave on his terms.”
Josh McGee is the current coach at Reagan, a conference rival, and played quarterback at West Forsyth. He also coached for two years under Snow before he left for Reagan.
“He gave me a lot of responsibilities in my two years,” McGee said. “Looking back at it, some of the things he made me do, I would get frustrated and wonder, ‘Why was he making me do laundry?’ or ‘Why was he making me clean the locker room?’ There was always a method to the madness, and that was to teach me the things I would need to know when I became a head coach and to be successful. He also taught me how to be an effective leader of men. He does such a good job of hiring good people, not only good football coaches, but good for the kids and then, he does a good job teaching his staff how he wants things to be done. Then he lets his coaches coach.”
McGee said that he always knew what his team would face when they were set to play the Titans on Friday nights.
“You’re always going to get a well-coached football team,” McGee said. “You’re always going to play a group of guys who play extremely hard and the right way. A group of kids who are going to have a great sense of pride in their school and their community and that starts with Coach Snow and his staff. They were always battles, and especially early in my career, we were always on the short end of that.
“Like everybody else I was shocked when I heard the news. He called me and he seemed at peace. And if he’s at peace and he’s happy, that’s all that matters.”
Todd Willert, the football coach at East Forsyth, and Snow weren’t as chummy in the early days of their tenures as they are today.
“I think that’s pretty well-documented,” Willert said with a laugh. “But it’s great that he and I, with the help of our wives, mended those fences and I now count him as one of my best friends in coaching. We have an unbelievable friendship now.”
Willert said he was grateful that Snow felt highly enough of him to call him and share the news.
“We brought the best out of each other,” Willert said. “Even when we hated each other, and even now that we like each other, we still never wanted to lose to each other. It was that competitiveness and that fire that made you better. He made me better as a coach. I know I’ll still see him and talk to him, but it just won’t be the same to not have him on the sidelines anymore.”
Snow said that his immediate plans for life outside coaching are fluid. He plans to remain at West as teacher until around the winter break as he waits to finalize a job opportunity in the private sector.
As for coaching again…
“If you’re asking me that today, I’d say no,” he said. “But two, three years down the road, who knows? I never wanted to be that guy that would be a big burden and people wished I would leave. The biggest thing is that I wanted to be sure we would be in a good spot, and I think we are here. There’s a lot of good pieces coming back next season. I’ve had my time. It’s time for someone else to have it now. And I’m at peace with that. I’ll be the biggest cheerleader for the next guy. If they want to bring Nick Saban in here — they might need to open their pocketbooks a little bit for that to happen — but I want the next guy to be better than me. This job will attract a lot of great people. But for me, it’s the right time. You know when you know. You learn to say goodbye a lot in this profession, and it’s my turn to say that now.”