Getting to Know ... Bill Navas

Bill Navas is the new athletic director at Duluth High School.

Bill Navas is the new athletic director at Duluth High School.

After seven successful years as the head football coach at Jefferson, Bill Navas was offered a job he thought was too good to pass up -- athletic director at Duluth High School. Navas' hiring was announced in March and he took over AD duties this summer.

A father of two, Navas is enjoying the move to administration and the chance to spend more time with his wife and daughters. In this installment of "Getting to Know ...," Navas talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including going fishing, leaving coaching and the Masters.

CT: Before you came to Duluth you spent seven years as the head football coach and a teacher at Jefferson. Your last season you were 11-1. So I'm sure people would say ...

BN: ... Why did you leave? Yeah.

CT: But you wanted to get into administration, right?

BN: That and I've got two young girls. Payton is 9 and Ally Kate is 7. My whole life was revolving around football. We'd go on vacation during the dead week, and the whole time I'd be on vacation, I'd be thinking about what's coming up because we started football full time after that.

I'm at my girls' soccer games and swim meets and I'm thinking about football. My phone's ringing, talking about football. I'm at church, tapping my foot, thinking about football. Preacher's shaking his head because he knows where I'm at.

So, you know what? Football's not my god and I wanted to see if I could live without it for a while. And it's been tough, you know. But this was such a great opportunity and I felt like at 41 at the time, I could always go back. I could spend three years here, see what kind of a difference I could make here and if I wanted to get back into coaching, I could.

But I've enjoyed the quality time with my family now that I'm not coaching football. It's easier for me to not take the work here I do so personally because it doesn't directly reflect me, I'm more of a support person.

It's just a great job. It's a great gig. I'm blessed to be able to have this opportunity. A lot of people would love to have this job. Other than missing the football like I have, I'm OK.

But I tell you what, I got to go fishing. Take a look at this. This is pretty impressive right here (clicking on picture on his computer) ... I went to Southeast Texas. I got to pursue my passion of traveling the world's rivers trying to find the biggest fish I can. That's a 70-pound alligator gar.

CT: How hard was that to boat?

BN: It wasn't too bad. I had a good guide. but you can't do that when I'm in football season.

CT: So was Duluth's proximity to Jefferson also a factor, because you kept your house there right?

BN: Yeah. We're going to raise our family in Jefferson as it stands right now. That might always change, but I promised my wife I wouldn't yank my kids out of school and be that coach that travels from here, there and yonder. And I was very happy at Jefferson. I had no intentions of leaving, but Mr. (Jason) Lane called me and just the chance to work for him was so appealing.

The more I talked to people and the more I researched this position -- obviously the quality of Gwinnett County public schools, a chance to work for the finest school system in the state of Georgia and one of the best in the country -- I was going to leave this position whenever I left for a much better professional (opportunity), from a career standpoint.

You throw Mr. Lane in the mix and it just became a real feeling that it's right. But we're not going to take our kids out of school. That was a tough sell at first, now. When all they know is Daddy is the coach. We talked about it at dinner time. The girls went upstairs and I heard this whimpering sound. I went up and my youngest girl was under the bed, crying, saying, 'Daddy's not going to be the football coach.' But I think they're OK. They're good with that now.

CT: Do you have them come down here?

BN: Yeah, they come to some of the events. It's difficult on some of the weeknights. But they've come to some football games. Of course, they're Jefferson Dragons, so they've been to those football games. We've kind of done a little bit of both.

CT: How long is the commute?

BN: Without traffic it takes me about 40 minutes every day.

But it's not too bad. And it's great think time. It's great for me to unwind so when I go home. I become a dad and a husband and don't have to worry about work too much.

My phone's not been ringing much, which is great.

CT: Jefferson had a good run this year under a former South Gwinnett coach, and legend in Georgia, T. McFerrin. Did you follow them?

BN: I did. I went to two games. T. is a great guy and he's been a mentor to me in a lot of ways and I was tickled that he got that job.

I'm still very close to those kids and follow them. It's the second score I check now. Of course, I'm at the other one, so I guess it's really is the first score I check.

But we're still a part of that community there. We're Dragons. Do a pregame meal and all that stuff. It's nice to be able to separate where you live from what you do. People call me Bill now and not coach. That's a little different.

CT: You were looking at January as a hopeful date of having a new football coach?

BN: We'd like to have a new coach in here by January. I think that we have needed change and I think the faster we can get that change, the more impact it's going to make on next season. Because we want to start building in January.

CT: Where did you coach and teach before you came to Jefferson?

BN: Hephzibah. I was at Butler for a year.

CT: So you saw both sides of that rivalry.

BN: Yep. Then I spent six years at South Aiken, a year at Slippery Rock and a year at the University of Pittsburgh.

CT: Did you go to Pitt?

BN: I went to Bethany College in West Virginia.

CT: Where did you grow up?

BN: Pittsburgh.

CT: Do you remain a Steelers' fan?

BN: I've always been a Steelers' fan. Don't know anything other than the Steelers. Steelers, Pirates, Penguins and Panthers. That's kind of how we roll. And my wife is a Penn State fan. Go figure. Of course, when I was coaching at Pitt, my wife and her parents came to my games they were wearing Penn State clothes.

CT: Did your wife grow up in the Pittsburgh area as well?

BN: She's about an hour north of where I grew up. And we didn't meet until she was a cheerleader and I was a football coach at Slippery Rock. I was a (graduate assistant) though, so a student-coach basically.

CT: You lived then a couple years in the Augusta area then?

BN: I did. In North Augusta, which is actually in South Carolina. But yes. We lived on the Savannah River which separated Georgia and South Carolina.

CT: Must have been pretty.

BN: Yeah, it was great. We had alligators that walked through our yard and all kind of neat stuff. I had to buy a shotgun just to keep the snakes away. But we had a cat that got rid of all the snakes, so that was good.

CT: Did you get a chance to go to the Masters while you were there?

BN: Once. I've had opportunities to play that course and didn't take them. I don't golf. For 19 year, all I've done is coach football. And I coached other sports when I got to the high-school level, soccer and basketball. I didn't have any hobbies. That's why the fishing trip was so ideal for me.

But I'm not a big golf guy. I did work it one year and could have, instead of getting paid for it, played the course. Actually the point guard on the basketball team that I coached, his dad was the No. 2 man in charge of grounds and facilities so he got us tickets one year, too.

CT: I wondered if people who live in the Augusta area just want to get out of town for that week.

BN: We rented our house and made $7,000 and they only stayed in it two nights. That was great. Our whole neighborhood was rented. We went on vacation, made money and it was a good deal.

CT: You have two daughters, 7 and 9?

BN: Payton after Walter Payton. Her middle name is Landry after Tom Landry. My wife had some complications with her early so they did an ultrasound. They circled this thing and said, "Boy." So that's how she got the name Payton Landry. It wasn't a boy, but we stuck with the name Payton Landry.

And Ally Kate was going to be Harley Bear after Harley Davidson and Bear Bryant. But my wife wouldn't go for that.

CT: What other sports did you coach?

BN: I coached soccer for five years and when I was in South Carolina, I was more known throughout the state as a soccer coach. And I had never played soccer in my life.

It was just a great experience for me. The football coach, who was the athletic director, asked me one day nonchalantly what I thought about soccer. I said, I don't know anything about soccer. I used to make fun of those guys when I was a college coach. He said, "Well then make sure they cut their hair and behave themselves and you'll be fine," and walked away.

From that scenario, I ended up being the soccer coach. Truly it ended up being probably one of the best experiences, to have something that was my own, that wasn't successful and for three years we were, I don't want to say a power in the state, but a state-ranked team. Put them in the playoffs three years and won a championship doing that.

I had some great kids and I still keep up with those kids. That just really shaped who I am and what I wanted to be.

Then I did coach basketball one year. Of course, we had Tony Kitchings, Michael Tyler and Kevin Muns and Mindaugas Jakulis and we ended up winning the state championship. (Laughing) So I conquered that mountain and then quit. That was as good as it gets and I knew nothing about basketball. I made the highlight film and drove the bus. I could do those things.

But for whatever reason, God has put me in places where I really learned a lot doing things that I would have never thought I would have done.