Brian Griffin has a good handle on the tradition at Hinsdale Central.
He's lived it.
As a junior defensive lineman in 2001, Griffin was on the team that won the program's first playoff game in 15 years. His senior year, the Red Devils reached the Class 8A semifinals, losing to Lockport.
"This community loves the tradition that we have, and the kids know it, whether it's siblings or other family members or people they know," Griffin said. "Our players ask me about 2002 all the time; they're into the tradition, which is cool. To be part of it as a player and as a coach is a great experience."
Griffin's now taking the next step.
A 2003 Hinsdale Central graduate and coach at the school for 11 years – seven as a varsity assistant, the last three as defensive coordinator – Griffin this week was approved as the Red Devils' next varsity head coach.
Griffin replaces Dan Hartman, who left Hinsdale in March to take the job at West Suburban Silver rival Lyons Township.
Griffin, 33, was named the interim head coach earlier this month, but that tag was removed with District 86 school board approval Wednesday.
Griffin, who teaches math at Hinsdale, has been the sophomore defensive coordinator, sophomore head coach, varsity assistant – and now the head coach.
"I've had the opportunity to watch him grow the last seven years, and to see that growth, I'm really excited about it," Red Devils athletic director Dan Jones said. "He has a passion for the profession, and he is a teacher first. He does an excellent job at it because he's an excellent teacher."
Griffin's vision is one of a program where every athlete, regardless of their stature, feels like they have a role.
It's not lip service, either.
A good player on his high school teams, Griffin never played in a game at Wheaton College – but that didn't prevent him from carving out a role for a program that won conference championships and made playoff runs.
"My vision is to build a program where every athlete feels like they have a place and a role no matter how big or small that is," Griffin said. "To have a meaningful program, and all of the programs I've been a part of had it, you have to have that vision, to give them something to fight for."
Griffin steps into the leadership role of a program that's established itself as one of the area's elites. Hinsdale has made eight straight playoff appearances, all five under Hartman, with three postseason wins during that time period.
"In a lot of ways, not a lot changes," Griffin said. "To move into a more visible role, to have a broader impact on the program, is exciting. It is something that I always wanted to do down the road. When the right opportunity opened up I always thought I would take advantage of it. It's a little earlier than I expected, but it's exciting. I feel like it's the appropriate next step."
Griffin's hiring is the next step toward restoring stability at Hinsdale.
Hartman left for Lyons amid uncertainty about the future of the program. Football, and other athletic programs, were cut in the winter pending the result of a $140 million referendum. It passed April 2, and the next day the football program was reinstated.
"The kids have had a rough offseason," Griffin said. "They're kids. They like certainty and there hasn't been a lot. They are excited to have a direction, to move in a direction once things went through. In some ways I'm glad that I can be a familiar face."