Eleven years spent next door in East Greenwich made Chris Cobain an admirer of North Kingstown athletics and fostered connections with the program.
As he entertained the idea of taking on a new challenge, that meant Cobain didn’t have to look far. And his resume and familiarity with the program made him a perfect fit to be the school system’s new athletic director. Cobain was officially hired July 28 and took over earlier this month.
“I said it in the interview – I have nothing but great feelings about East Greenwich, but I also know what NK has to offer is pretty commendable as well,” Cobain said. “I believe that it is the best large public school in the state. I’m going to have an opportunity to see how they go about things academically and how to fit in with their sports program and education-based athletics. It’s a really exciting thing for me.”
The job was previously held by Dick Fossa, whose sudden passing in June at the age of 61 was a shock for the community. Cobain knew Fossa well from the league and the Rhode Island Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association.
Howie Hague, the school’s former athletic director, stepped in on an interim basis to shepherd the program through the summer. Cobain spoke with Hague about the job opening and initially figured strong internal candidates might emerge. When that didn’t happen, Cobain decided, on the final day the job was posted, to take the plunge.
“I had a tremendous experience working at EG for 11 years. But after 11 years, you tend to start thinking about, ‘Where am I going to be for the next 10?’” Cobain said. “I personally had taken a look at possibly going to work for the league. With the unfortunate circumstances that happened at NK, it sort of got me thinking, if the league doesn’t work out, would that be sort of a new challenge?”
Cobain has spent the last 11 years as the athletic director at East Greenwich. Before that, he won two championships as the boys basketball coach at Exeter-West Greenwich High School. With the Avengers, he oversaw the program as it moved into new on-campus facilities, including a turf field for football, lacrosse, field hockey and soccer – much like the one North Kingstown debuted last fall. East Greenwich teams won 26 state championships in Cobain’s time there.
He has also served as president of the Rhode Island Athletic Administrator Association and was named that organization’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2017.
“I’ve known Chris since he was coaching at EWG,” said South Kingstown athletic director Terry Lynch. “He’s a quality person, he’s a quality administrator and he’ll keep that train rolling.”
North Kingstown’s success at the highest levels of Rhode Island high school sports made it an appealing next stop for Cobain. The Skippers have won 15 top-division state championships just in the last five years.
“I truly love education-based athletics,” Cobain said. “I love watching kids and coaches compete and build teams and implement strategies. Clearly, North Kingstown does it at the highest level that we have in the state of Rhode Island. That is an extremely attractive challenge for me and it’s exciting for me.”
Taking over in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is another challenge. Cobain is getting the high school’s ducks in a row for a possible fall sports season, while awaiting word from the RIIL. Outside of those speed bumps, he expects the transition to be smooth.
“Working with Howie and helping them out on different things, getting to know some of the coaches here, working with Dick over the last three years, I felt like this wasn’t a job that I didn’t know anything about it,” Cobain said. “It was a job that I wanted to learn more about. Yes, I’m starting fresh, but I’m not starting fresh in all areas. I have people that I’ve already built relationships with and I know that I can go to them with confidence and say, ‘I need help with this or can you help me understand this?’
“That, I think, is going to help this transition and get me up to speed quicker than someone else would coming in as a stranger.”