Changing of the guard

Jack Creighton will soon retire as Frankford’s athletic director. Former boys varsity basketball coach Ben Dubin will step into the role.

  • Natural born leader: Ben Dubin is set to officially take the reins as Frankford’s athletic director on Aug. 11. Dubin coached the varsity basketball team for six seasons through 2010 and has been a teacher and dean of students at the school for 12 years. TIMES FILE PHOTO

  • A proud Pioneer: Jack Creighton, who has been at Frankford since 1998, has retired as the school’s athletic director. He’s pictured here following the school’s third straight league baseball title in 2013, allowing players to shave his mustache as part of losing a bet. TIMES FILE PHOTO

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.” ••

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