The tradition that Bob Mitchell established for Northwestern football over the past 28 years isn't something Tom Linette takes lightly.
He's been at Mitchell's side for each and every one of those years. The two are best friends.
So when Mitchell decided to step down at the end of last season, there was one thing Linette had to ask himself before seeking to be the next head coach.
"Would my being head coach carry on his tradition? I felt strongly enough that it would," Linette said Thursday at a press conference to announce his hiring.
Mitchell and all his assistants were either Northwestern teachers, former Northwestern teachers or Northwestern graduates. Linette expects things to stay that way while he's in charge.
"We're all Northwestern, either by birth or by opportunity," he said. "And we're going to continue to be."
Northwestern has been very successful over Mitchell's tenure, especially in this decade. The Tigers have gone 65-38 since 2001, including five trips to the district playoffs, four appearances in the district title game and one District 11 title in the last nine years.
Linette does not plan any major changes for the program. Several Northwestern assistant coaches have been with the program as long as Linette, some even longer. The staff includes well over 100 years of coaching experience and it will stay mostly in tact under its new head coach.
"While there may be a few changes, it's looking like you'll recognize all the people that you see up there," he said. "Had I not taken this position there's a good chance one of the other guys on the staff would have filled in and done a remarkable job as well."
One thing Linette had in common with Mitchell is a love of teaching. He is a special education and social studies teacher at the high school.
Northwestern athletic director Jason Zimmerman, who played for Mitchell and Linette at Northwestern, said the field was always an extension of the classroom.
"The thing I like most about coach Mitchell and coach Linette and our staff is that they're not just coaching football," he said. "It was like having seven fathers with you all the time. They were fair and they were consistent. They held you accountable. They set the bar high and expected you to reach that bar and exceed it."
As an assistant, Linette was the offensive and defensive line coach and was involved with Mitchell in offensive game planning and play calling. He said it's not a definite that he will stick with those responsibilities next season.
"Change occurs at every level," he said.
While much of Northwestern's staff has been around for more than a decade, there are several young coaches that have helped re-energized the the program in recent years, such as Josh Snyder, Greg Mitchell and Josh Zimmerman.
Those young coaches text messaged their congratulations to Linette Wednesday evening after his official approval by the school board.
"I'm excited because they're excited," Linette said. "I've never experienced that before. We were all assistant coaches together so we have a relationship already in place. It's going to change a little bit now but it's not going to lose the closeness that we have."
One former member of the coaching staff is also pleased to see his good friend take over.
"I'm thrilled for him," Mitchell said. "I'm thrilled for the program. I'm thrilled for the school district. He is just going to do an absolutely fantastic job. He's got a great work ethic. He's got a great personality. He's a great teacher who can motivate, who can teach."