When the 2014-15 school year begins roughly two months from now, a familiar face in the Frankford High School athletics community will be absent. Luckily for the Pioneers, another well-known individual will be stepping in.
Jack Creighton, who has served as Frankford’s athletic director since 1998 and is a Public League lifer, opted for retirement following this past school year. And while Creighton and his signature Frankford bucket hat and bushy white Fu Manchu mustache will no longer be as visible on the sidelines at school athletic events, his replacement is someone whom students at Frankford know quite well.
The school has tabbed Ben Dubin as Creighton’s replacement. Dubin recently finished his 12th year as a teacher at Frankford, where he also serves as a dean of students. Recent graduates of the school most likely also remember Dubin as the former boys varsity basketball coach, a position he held for six years through the 2009-10 season, when current head coach Dave Huzzard took over. Despite stepping away from his coaching duties, Dubin is the Public League’s basketball chairman, so he’s just about as familiar with the league’s athletic landscape as one individual can be.
For Creighton, it was time to step away, creating a fresh opportunity for Dubin, who was eager to accept the athletic director position at Frankford, colloquially known as “The Home of Champions.”
“One thing about Frankford that I learned quickly when I got there was the gigantic tradition and pride of the graduates,” Dubin said by phone on Monday. “The school has that ‘college pride’ feel when you graduate. And I’ve seen a lot of Frankford grads come back to teach and become great, great coaches. It’s something really special to be a part of.”
Dubin has been in the School District of Philadelphia for the past 21 years, starting out as a teacher and coach at Gillespie Middle School. He also briefly served as the head coach of the Samuel Fels basketball team in the early 2000s. Dubin said he believed his position as the Public League hoops chair would only aid his transition to his new position of overseeing one of the oldest athletic departments in the city.
“I’m still the basketball chair, and that job really helps in terms of dealing with the changing landscape of the schools in the league,” Dubin said. “As an athletic director, my responsibility is within my school; obviously, winning is something that’s exciting and worth shooting for, but I want to help these kids get to college, and then maybe they can come back and get involved again.”
Several of the school’s current coaches are Frankford graduates, including Juan Namnun (head baseball coach), Dave Cebular and Dominic Doyle (football assistants) and Joe Farina, a former star baseball player who is now involved with the school’s wrestling program. Frankford has always been a school big on tradition and keeping things in the family, even if both the new and previous athletic directors are George Washington graduates.
For Creighton, he was almost 40 years into a career that served both the Public League and the school district. Upon graduation from Washington, Creighton began teaching at Stetson Middle School, where he met his wife, Bettyann, a Frankford graduate and current Director of Health, Safety and Physical Education for the school district. Creighton was at Stetson from 1974-1990 until he moved on to Simon Gratz High School until 1998, when he was hired by Frankford.
“Everybody I came in with retired last year, but I decided to stick it out for another year and finish some things up,” Creighton said. “This year, it was time to go. It’s time for somebody else to pick it up, and there’s always room for new blood and ideas. My mom, mother-in-law, father-in-law and three brothers-in-law all went to Frankford, so I always heard about its traditions even though I didn’t go there. Working there has been a joy.”
Of course, what Creighton will miss the most is the Frankford student-athletes. When Namnun won his third straight league baseball championship in 2013, one of the more lasting images of the postgame celebration was the Pioneer players taking turns sheering off parts of Creighton’s mustache to fulfill the terms of a bet.
“The kids and the tradition, I’d say that’s what I’ll miss the most,” he said. “They’re good kids, and they want to play and do well. We have a staff that understands that. We want kids from Frankford to come to school and play sports here.
“It’s been a good time. I’ve enjoyed it. I watched the older guys who came before me to see how they did things, and that’s what I tried to do during my time in charge. I enjoyed my time, but now it’s time to enjoy my retirement.”
Creighton said that despite his decision to step down, he won’t ever be too far away. The allure of Frankford athletic contests will be too hard to resist, so he’ll undoubtedly still be seen in some capacity. In addition to that, his children are also heavily involved in high school athletics. His son, John, is the head lacrosse and boys basketball coach at Washington; daughter Mary is a coach and athletic director at Saul High School; another son, Tom, coaches soccer at Downingtown East.
“I’ve got five kids, so I’m sure ‘Daddy Day Care’ will keep me busy,” Creighton said. “If the plumbing’s not working or the car isn’t running, I’m the guy who fixes it. I also still want to be a Public League referee, which I’ve done since before I started teaching. I’ll still be around, because I don’t think I’ll be able to just walk away cold turkey.”
As for Dubin, short and long-term missions will be plentiful. Although he doesn’t officially start as AD until Aug. 11, one of the first orders of business will be to find a Thanksgiving football opponent, as the newly-established Frankford-Fels game will be discontinued. Dubin is also hoping to reinvigorate alumni involvement and overall attendance at games, which he feels has sagged a bit in recent years.
“I want our coaches to coach, and it’s my job to make sure they have as little stress outside of that as possible,” Dubin said. “I want to get some of the new coaches on track to run a successful team and offer them any guidance that I can. And I really want to get the alumni more involved again. That’s really important to what Frankford is all about.
“When you think of the Home of Champions, we’ve had many great, great coaches here, and we’ve got some great ones now as part of that younger generation, guys like Juan Namnun. Frankford pride as it pertains to athletics is a big part of who we are.”
Above all else, Dubin is excited for the new challenge in front of him.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity for me and my family,” he said. “The way my career has gone for the last 21 years, this is a great step. We’re going to strive hard to reach our goals, work hard and hope for the best.” ••