YAKIMA, Wash. — Chris Fisk knew it was the right time, so he wasted no time.
Upon learning that Ian Shoemaker was close to becoming the new offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington, Fisk quickly let Central Washington athletic director Dennis Francois know in no uncertain terms that if that did indeed happen, then he wanted to be the Wildcats new head football coach.
Fisk’s pride and passion for the Central program — he had been the team’s offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator the previous three seasons — combined with boundless energy and football knowledge quickly won over Francois, with Fisk announced as the Wildcats new head man the same day the school announced that Shoemaker was heading to Cheney on Feb. 27.
“Whenever I’ve had a job opportunity, I’ve been very up front with the athletic director,” Fisk said, adding that he just knew he was in the right place at the right time to try and get his first head coaching post.
“I’m at a stage in my career where I’ve showed I can lead,” he continued. “I also wanted to continue building on the foundation that coach Shoemaker had started. I liked where the program was at and knew I could build on it.”
Even though he’s had just five-plus weeks from his hire to the start of spring practices on April 5, Fisk said he’s settling into the job — but not without digging deep into his well of energy.
“It’s been frantic and fast-paced. I haven’t been home much as I learn the position,” Fisk said of missing time with his family, wife and “high school sweetheart” Jessie, and daughters Avery, who attends Central, and Shauny, a junior at Ellensburg High.
Easing that transition was the ready acceptance of him by not just the coaches but the players as well, he said.
“I had a really good relationship with all the kids in the program (but) the day we went into the first morning (offseason) session and Dennis introduced me as the new coach, the applause I received from all of the players was really humbling,” he said, adding that the players have also quickly bought into his methods.
“We made some changes to our winter conditioning and we’re really seeing those things pay off right now,” he said. “We have willing participants. I’m having more fun coaching now than I have in years.”
That cooperation has blended nicely with Fisk’s own ability to bring all the players together.
“As humbling as it is to talk about my strengths, I’d say leadership is one. I feel I’m a guy who can bring both sides of the ball together to work for a common goal,” he said. “I feel I can work with (the defense) and show them I have their best interests at heart and give them support, not just on the football side but the personal side.
“We’re building a program with strength of character.”
Even though Fisk is young at 42, he has a wealth of coaching experience.
Right before coming to Central, the Pocatello, Idaho, native spent five years as offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator at Southern Oregon. He began his coaching career at the University of Mary, where he was offensive line coach his first five years there and then spent the final four as offensive coordinator.
All along that journey, Fisk said he’s been able to build on his football knowledge.
“You’re always constantly learning,” he said, noting that included sharing information with Shoemaker who was at a rival midwest school when he was at Mary. “We’d meet at camps and we’d sit and talk, I knew we had some similar philosophies but we had some different styles so I grew as a coach.
“I really enjoyed the things I’ve learned from him and, hopefully, he learned some things from me.”
Given their like-minded thinking on offense, it shouldn’t surprise Wildcat fans that Fisk plans to pick up right where Shoemaker left off.
“I’m not doing anything different. We are successful,” he said. “One of the reasons I came up here was because I saw eye to eye with coach Shoemaker on what we want to do offensively. We’d be crazy to try and change things.”
Fisk said he also plans to entrust both the offense and defense to his coordinators — recently hired Kelly Bills from Weber State on offense and second-year defensive coordinator Ivan Cordova.
“What I’m going to be able to do is step back and watch both sides of the ball,” he said, adding that he’s excited to keep watching this team develop.
“We have the best guys here at Central. They work their tails off,” he said. “The effort and energy through four (spring) practices has been amazing. When you have that effort and attitude, you can work through the little things.”