Essex High School (EHS) athletics director Patrick Merriam has announced the hiring of Ira Isham and Tim Root as the head coaches for the Hornets’ varsity boys’ lacrosse and baseball teams, respectively.
“Tim and Ira each bring knowledge and experience to the varsity positions at Essex,” Merriam said. “Each will build upon the strong traditions within their programs and also create a culture representative of their individual passions for teaching within an educationally-based athletic setting. I look forward to supporting them as I head into my first spring season at EHS.”
Isham, a special educator for the high school, is also the varsity wrestling coach for the Hornets. Root is a social studies teacher at EHS and has an extensive coaching resume which includes stints as the head of Essex’s junior varsity (JV) baseball team and an assistant for the football program.
“It was a very exciting feeling for me,” Isham said about learning that he was selected for the job. “But once you hear that news, you immediately turn your brain to: okay, now it’s real. Now it’s time to start planning and getting things ready for the season. So initially it was great, but then my mindset turned to business.”
Isham played lacrosse at EHS for Dean Corkum--the long-time Hornet head coach who recently stepped down from the position. After returning to work for the high school, Isham started as a coach for the freshman team before taking the reins of the JV squad.
“[Coaching the varsity team] is something I’ve been working towards,” Isham said. “When I came back to work here at the school, it was a sport that I was definitely interested in coaching at the varsity level. When the job opened up, it was the opportunity I was looking for.”
Isham noted that his predecessor made a big impact on how he’s operated with the wrestling program--and how he plans to operate the lacrosse program.
“Dean has been a huge part of my life,” he said. “I was excited as a younger kid to be able to play for him. He’s been the greatest mentor I could have--not just coaching lacrosse, but coaching in general.
“I have high expectations for the team this year,” Isham continued. “Essex Lacrosse has definitely grown into a very successful program over the last couple decades, and I want to keep that tradition alive.”
Root grew up in Rutland, Vt., played Division III baseball while in college, and then graduated from UVM in 1995. He’s spent time coaching for Essex, U-32 High School, and Mount Mansfield Union High--both on the football and baseball side of things--and has won multiple state championships while with those various teams.
“Essex is, to me, a premiere baseball town in the state,” Root said. “I was super happy [to get the job], because it was something I wanted to do since I first picked up a baseball, glove, and bat. I played three sports, but baseball spoke to me. And, for whatever reason, I really wanted to be a baseball coach.
“But then, there was that moment of: this is Essex Baseball; this is a long tradition,” he added. “I got a little nervous. I now need to do my part to keep this incredible tradition going. So it was one part happy, the other part: I need to get to work. I’m ecstatic, but we have a lot to do. This is a community that wants to win--and it should. This is a program that has been developed to put out the best product possible, and it’s my turn with the batton. So we need to make sure that we do that.”
The new Hornet head coach says the first team he ever coached was a South Burlington Babe Ruth squad while he was at UVM, and 2019 marked the first spring since 1989 that he had not helped a baseball team.
“The kids looked at me like I was 100 years old,” Root said about telling his new crew about his past during their first meeting.
“Obviously, I want to win,” he noted. “Essex’s goal every year is to be state champs. Essex Baseball doesn’t shoot for second place. But it also goes beyond the wins and losses, especially at the lower levels, and I want our freshman and JV players to have great experiences playing baseball, too.”