A Coach You’ve Probably Never Heard of – Joe Kinnan

Head coach of this season’s top ranked team in the nation, Joe Kinnan has helped Manatee High School in Bradenton (FL) win five state championships. Coach Kinnan grew up in Bradenton and was a Manatee grad, class of 1963. He began

his coaching career at Ft. Myers Cypress Lake High School in 1969 when he was 23.


He quickly burned out, trying to do everything for the program and, after two seasons, left to try his hand at college coaching. In the 1970’s, Kinnan coached at four different colleges and was the Offensive Coordinator at Eastern Kentucky when they won the Division I-AA National Championship in 1979.


He returned to his alma mater in 1981 and won his first state championship in 1983.

Manatee also won state titles, in 1985, 1989, 1992 and last fall. Among the many players he coached was Nebraska All-American Quarterback Tommie Frazier who led the Cornhuskers to back-to-back National Championships in 1994 and 1995.


Kinnan, however, left coaching in 2000 when he was diagnosed with cancer. But after being medically cleared, he returned in 2005 to his old job and promptly won four regional championships and then another state title. His mantra consists of trusting and respecting his coaches and players and letting his coaches coach.


“I have my coaching philosophy down to two things,” said Kinnan. “Trust the people you work with which has nothing to do with X’s and O’s and believe in your system of offense and defense which has everything to do with X’s and O’s.” Over the years the Manatee offense has gone from the I formation to the Spread while the defense has evolved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and now a 4-2-5.


The Florida High School Athletic Association designated Kinnan as one of 12 Florida High School Coaches of the Century in 2007. But Kinnan knows he’ll never get a big head because of something NFL Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs told him. Gibbs talked about his early years coaching and having some difficult seasons. “Those years we played Possum Ball,” said Gibbs. “We were dead at home and got killed on the road.”


It probably will never happen at Manatee High School.