Large Schools Coach of the Year: Intense Hatten has returned glory to Crestview program

Somewhere on the coaching spectrum, located right between scary intense and unapproachable, is Tim Hatten’s Friday night scowl and steely gaze.

It’s not so much that the veteran coach demands perfection. It’s more than he expects accountability and humility, a sign that a player is above all else coachable.

Make a mistake? You better be contrite. And you better be quick with a solution.

“It becomes really intense after the National Anthem,” Hatten said. “The kids understand that it’s nothing personal. You’re gonna coach hard and we’re going to talk about mistakes and understand why you made a mistake. We’re going to get it corrected.”

How intense? Hatten has an interesting comparison.

“A werewolf,” said the Crestview head coach, dead serious despite the laugh.

"Usually when it comes to games, I stay out of his way," laughed senior Keon Voisin. "He's got a temper on him, and it's the same every time if you don't do something right. But he only wants the best for you."

Apparently Hatten was bitten or scratched with the werewolf gene in the 1990s, just a 28-year-old given his first head coaching gig.

“I was young, too young. I didn’t deserve to be hired,” Hatten said with a chuckle. “But I’ve always been intense. I’ve probably been changing on Friday nights into a werewolf since the early '90s. But the kids respond to it well.”

Always have.

Before he was hired at Crestview in 2013, he spent 11 seasons at Pearl River Community College in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He compiled an 80-30 record, including a 12-0 campaign in 2004 that culminated with an NJCAA national championship.

Prior to his time in Mississippi, Hatten coached at Haines City High School in central Florida, compiling a 79-29 record as part of a 188-69 overall record as head coach.

Now, five seasons later, he’s turned Crestview from a perennial letdown into the class of District 3-6A. The proof?

He’s 3-2 against Niceville, including two straight wins by a 62-39 margin.

He’s led Crestview to back-to-back district crowns on the shoulders of a 6-0 league mark.

During that same span, Crestview is 20-3 with a Sweet 16 and Elite Eight trip.

And overall, in his 25th year as head coach, he’s 33-20 over five seasons at Crestview with two playoff appearances.

With the wins he’s seen a shift in the community, which before his arrival hadn’t seen a win over Niceville in nearly three decades and a playoff berth since 2002.

“The community’s been great,” Hatten said. “Win, lose or draw they’ve always been great, but winning adds a palpable sense of excitement for the team, the school, the community. And that’s the way it should be.

“Football is a part of this community. This community is, in a lot of ways, tied to this football team and its success.”

That success included a 10-0 run to the region finals, where the Bulldogs lost 49-28 at St. Augustine. By season’s end the Bulldogs finished 8-0 at home, outscored foes 383-196 and picked apart district opponents for a 126-46 margin of victory.

The chief reason for the shift in culture? Coaching continuity.

“When I came in here five years ago, you’d hear people talk and say, ‘Coach, you need to get you some coaches,’ ” Hatten said. “Let it be known that we have the same nucleus of coaches now that we had year one. Those guys have done a phenomenal job that have been here through the thick and the thin. We brought in coach Tommy Johnson and coach (Adam) Robertson this past year. But aside from that it’s been the same crew.

“When there’s continuity, good things happen. That means a lot to the kids to have the same voices, the same leadership.”

Front and center, of course, is that Hatten scowl.

“I’m gonna coach you pretty hard,” he said. “But the kids understand that I’m always good to talk to them after the game or even after a mistake. They know I’ll circle back to them and make sure they understand where I’m coming from.

“We’re going to continue to be intense Friday nights. I’m going to continue to be intense Friday nights. We’ll continue to as long as it’s fun.”

Full moon or not.