TEMECULA -- Replacing the big name on campus wasn't going to be easy at Linfield Christian. Turns out, the Lions didn't have to look far.
Long-time area coach Steve Silberman was selected as Linfield's new football coach Thursday. Silberman, who has coached at four Valley high schools, takes over for Jimmy Kemmis, the Linfield alum and former standout athlete who resigned in early April less than two years removed from leading the school to its first CIF Southern Section football championship.
Silberman brings 25 years of experience in high school and college to the post. Last season, he served as running backs coach and recruited Southwest County for Riverside Community College coach Tom Craft, whom he also previously coached with at Palomar College.
Linfield is a school, said Silberman -- a Murrieta resident -- that he has had an eye on for some time.
"I've lived here for 18 years, and I've always thought Linfield was a sleeping giant as a school that had potential," he said. "There's no other small school in the area that's as football-oriented."
Linfield athletic director Drake Charles did not return messages Thursday night, though he confirmed the hiring via an e-mail.
Silberman is well-traveled, and his future plans are often asked when he's hired for a job. He has served as a head coach at both Elsinore and Tahquitz, as well as an assistant at both Great Oak (2004-2007) and Vista Murrieta (2009).
Asked the obvious question Thursday, Silberman said, "I'm here to stay."
He went 3-13 in Tahquitz's first two seasons as a varsity program. In 2001, he led Elsinore to a Southwestern League title and 6-5 overall mark in his only year there.
As a high school coach, though, Silberman made his mark at Vista High School in San Diego County. During his tenure from 1995 to 1999, Vista went 49-16-2, won four Palomar League titles and three consecutive CIF San Diego Section championships in 1996, '97 and '98. When he left Vista, he said the reason was to be closer to home.
"What I really wanted was a job up here and something I could kind of build," he said. "I thought I had that at Tahquitz, but the economy kind of messed that up."
In Linfield, he assumes the reins of a program coming off its most successful era. In 2009, Kemmis led the Lions to a 14-0 season and the Northeast Division championship, won 9-6 over Arcadia Rio Hondo Prep on a mud-bogged Covina District Stadium field.
Last season, the Lions moved into a tougher circuit but still qualified for the playoffs out of the Ambassador League as the second-place team. They went 6-5, losing to Big Bear in the first round of the playoffs.
Silberman, whose son, Matt, is a senior baseball player for Vista Murrieta, likes the talent he will have at Linfield.
"It's a great place to stay and build something," he said.