After starring at Oregon, Cole Linehan returns to his roots as the Braves' defensive coordinator

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Cole Linehan and the Banks football team have been hard at work ahead of their Sept. 5 season opener at North Marion.Coaching opportunities don’t get much better than the one that was laid at Cole Linehan’s feet this summer.

Linehan — who starred on the defensive line for four years at Banks and later the University of Oregon — began his second career coaching eight-man football at tiny Jewell High School in Seaside, and last fall he moved up to Class 6A and coached the defensive line at nearby Hilhi. The 29-year-old was happy to put in his time and climb the coaching ladder, hoping to someday become a head coach.

When a teaching and coaching position became available at Linehan’s high school alma mater, it seemed too good to be true. When longtime assistant coach James Miller left to take a job in Virginia, opening up the defensive coordinator position, it really seemed too good to be true. And when Ben Buchanan, Banks’ head football coach since 1998, came knocking on Linehan’s door and asked if he would work as an understudy for a few seasons before eventually taking over as the Braves’ head coach, well, there was only one way to describe his reaction.

“It was easy,” Linehan said of the decision to come back to Banks. “I was enjoying Hillsboro, but you always have a lot of loyalty to your alma mater. When the opportunity came up, I went through the process and talked to my wife, and we decided that this is where we want to live, this is where we want to raise kids. This is home for us.”

It’s not often that a man with only three years of coaching experience — including two seasons at a Class 1A school — steps into a situation where he’s being groomed to take over a powerhouse program like Banks. The Braves, have won four Cowapa League titles and made 11 playoff appearances in the last 13 years.

But Linehan’s credentials are impeccable.

As a senior at Banks in 2003, Linehan led the Braves to their first league championship of the Buchanan era, sparking a run of unprecedented success that continues to this day. He was named to SuperPrep Magazine’s high school All-American team and earned a scholarship offer from Oregon, where he spent the next five years learning from now-retired defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti and the rest of the Ducks coaching staff.

Now, Linehan will get his chance to lead a defense when he takes the reins as Banks’ defensive coordinator this fall.

“Originally I was just going to coach defensive line, but with Coach Miller leaving, (the opportunity) was right here, right now,” Linehan said. “Defense has always been my thing. I’ve been on that side of the ball since high school.”

Buchanan was overjoyed when he saw the chance to bring aboard a former Division I football player and a local legend. Linehan and his brothers, Josh and Gabe, are three of the few small-school athletes from Oregon who have gone on to succeed at the highest level of college football.

“It’s awesome to have a guy like Cole back,” Buchanan said. “He’s a fantastic teacher and young man, plus he’s a kid who grew up playing football in Banks and went on to have a great college career. He wants to be a head coach someday, and basically what I’m going to be doing is grooming him for that job. In a couple years I’ll step back and just be the offensive coordinator or something, and he can handle all the day-to-day responsibilities and offseason stuff that comes with being a head coach and running a program.

“Whenever I feel like he’s ready — and it will probably be sooner than later — I’ll hand the reins over to him.”

Buchanan is still passionate about coaching, and he said he’s not ready to hang up the headset just yet. But he has the opportunity to teach and mold an energetic yet inexperienced young coach — a coach who will, hopefully, continue the proud tradition of Banks football.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks defensive coordinator Cole Linehan spent a total of three seasons coaching at Jewell and Hillsboro before coming home to coach at Banks, where he was a standout in the early 2000s, ahead of the 2014 season.

“I still love coaching, so I’m not going to completely step away,” Buchanan said. “But 20-plus years of coaching kind of wears on you after a while. Being the head coach, that takes a lot of time away from your family and other things.”

While Linehan is plenty familiar with the tight-knit Banks community, he admits that his time away has him feeling a little bit like an outsider.

“I’m coming up on my 10-year reunion,” he said with a laugh. “A lot of these kids, I know their last names or I know their families, but I don’t know a lot of them. It’s been good to spend time with them and get to know them.

“We’ve been going at it for the last month or so. I’ve been running the weight room with the guys, and we went to Rilea (team football camp) for a week. That was good to be around all the guys and just spend some time together.”

Whether it’s to counsel athletes hoping to someday play college football or to offer off-the-field guidance to his players, Linehan is excited to get started on his coaching career in Banks.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “A lot of kids want to play at the next level, and if I can be a resource for them, then that’s great.

“That’s the fun part. These kids look to you for guidance and support. That’s the part of coaching I really enjoy.”

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