Diane Brest wants the world to know she’s the wife of a working man. Last winter, Bill Brest resigned as Hickory High’s head football coach.
But he’s not “retired.” Far from it.
Following a very successful 9-season stint with the ‘Stingers – including 6 straight District 10 championships and a pair of PIAA Final Four berths – Brest resigned as Hickory’s head coach; however, he has joined Grove City College’s coaching staff.
Brest joins his son, Kendall, on Head Coach Andrew DiDonato’s staff. Kendall is GCC undergraduate and coaches the defensive secondary; Bill will coach wide receivers and serve as special teams coordinator. Additionally, Brest’s daughter Carly followed her brother to GCC and is a rising sophomore entrepreneurship/Spanish double major (with a minor in international/business) and member of the softball team.
Every day is Father’s Day for Bill Brest.
“My wife and I get this question so many times: ‘How are you enjoying retirement from coaching football?’ I never retired; it was just time to take a different coaching journey,” Brest recently explained.
Soon after tendering his resignation, Brest met with DiDonato for a cup of coffee. While at Hickory, Brest twice went head-to-head with DiDonato’s South Fayette High offenses in Class AA western regional championship games.
“It wasn’t an interview,” Brest began, “but an evening full of discussion: of vision, mission, philosophy, process, life, the Lord, love, our families, Kendall, where I see Grove City College’s special teams’ and wide-receiver units, how can I assist (DiDonato) with the offense and the program, and our battles of Hickory versus South Fayette.
“It didn’t take long to understand that this was the best situation for my family and myself, and that God’s providence is leading the way,” Brest added.
Kendall has served as a student coach the past 2 seasons, part of a turnabout from 4-6 in 2017 to 8-3 and a postseason 2018 win directed by DiDonato, the Presidents’ Athletic Conference coach of the year.
“Coaching at GCC is great,” Kendall commenced. “I have always wanted to coach on the offensive side of the ball, but now I am being enlightened on the defensive side of the ball and am really enjoying it. I love coaching at Grove City and am enjoying all the opportunities I wouldn’t have received somewhere else, such as actually coaching a position as a student,” added the junior exercise science major.
Though Grove City and Hermitage are separated by only 25 miles, there was some separation anxiety for the father when Kendall matriculated at GCC. Bill related:
“The past two seasons were difficult on me as a father, because I wanted to be at all of Kendall’s games supporting him. However (as Hickory’s head coach) my Saturdays and Sundays started at 5 a.m. and usually ended between 8-10 p.m. – game-planning and completing scouting reports. I would have the GCC game on Live Stream, but would only listen more than watch. Kendall and I would always talk after his games, but it was definitely not the same as being there.
“So when the opportunity presented itself, I wanted to make sure my wife was on board before informing Kendall and Carly,” Brest continued. “In the end it’s an opportunity to coach alongside my son and maintain a presence in both of my children’s lives on the collegiate level.
“Most people don’t get these chances. The more I prayed about it, the more we as a family prayed about it, a peace came over us and I am very happy to be a member of the GCC coaching staff.”
Diane Brest, a Hickory High principal, pointed out, “Kendall has been with his father through the years: as Bill’s ballboy at Hickory until he was old enough to play, (then) as a player for Bill, and then a coach with Bill after his health diagnosis. And now they are coaching together again. Pretty cool!”
Brest & Brest have begun working with the Wolverines.
“Spring football was incredible!” Bill began. “Coach DiDonato has assembled a young, talented, hard-working staff that appreciates each other, cares about the players and the game, and loves the Lord. We all had great communication! Practices moved fast, were well structured and organized, and much was accomplished.
“And it was great to see Kendall interacting with special teams and the corner(backs). And there were times he and I had cross-over work with receivers and corners and the rest of the defensive backs, which made for some great competition!” Bill continued. “But in reality, Kendall and I were like ‘two ships that pass in the night’ as we saw each other for a few periods at practice, but were both busy coaching.
“Afterwards, we would hug and say ‘I love you’, then he was off to dinner and study tables, while I headed into a staff meeting.”
“Coaching with my father is a blessing not given to many people,” confided Kendall. “We connect! And it’s a fun battle between us when his receivers go against my corners in one-on-one practice. My father and I also talk ‘Brick by Brick,’ the GCC football philosophy. And I believe Grove City football is the first brick being laid in my ultimate football coaching foundation.”
This summer the Brest family is bound for Cancun, Mexico. Bill and Kendall will coach at the Cancun for OFAS (Organization de Futbol Americano del Sereste or Football for South Americas) clinic.
“It will be such a great honor this time, as Kendall will be a part of the clinic,” Bill said. “Simultaneously, Carly and her mother will be participating in a mission experience in the Cancun area.”
Although athletes are athletes and coaching is coaching, the change has revitalized Bill Brest. His health has improved – during a recent telephone conversation he was preparing dinner – and he is eager to commence his coaching career at GCC.
“Coaching for and with Coach DiDonato offers many similarities to my time at Hickory in building a program; or as Coach DiDonato refers to it: ‘building brick by brick,’” Bill explained. “From 0-33 (the Wolverines were winless for 3-plus consecutive seasons), to ... the first ever bowl win (Eastern College Athletic Conference) in 2018, the bricks are being laid because of what Coach DiDonato has set forth: A clear vision glorifying God, while building lasting relationships (and) earning a degree, (all) while in pursuit of a PAC championship.
“Everyone speaking the same language. There is a clear-cut process that everyone follows,” Bill continued, “with everything being done with love. I appreciate this wonderful blessing to coach at Grove City College, for Coach DiDonato, with my son, and to be a part of building a program ‘brick by brick.’”
TV sitcoms, circa 1960’s, featured family-themed programs such as “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett,” “Father Knows Best,” and “My Three Sons.” But don’t expect Bill Brest to be sitting by the hearth, while wearing his cashmere sweater and drawing from a pipe before offering sage advice to Kendall and Carly.
Think of his station in life as a chapter from the book “Fathers & Sons & Sports.” He’s living the dream, knows it and grateful for it, and young – and wise enough – to be enjoying it. Or as he termed it:
“Together again ... and against each other at Grove City College.”