There were 82 head coaches hired by GHSA schools in the off-season. This week, GHSF Daily looks at each new coach, beginning today with AAAAAA and AAAAA.
Number of hires: 14
Best hire: Robby Pruitt, Coffee
Hardest to replace: Bill Stewart, Etowah
Best job: Tift County
Toughest job: Morrow
Most interesting: With Tift County and Coffee making high-profile hires, Region 1-AAAAAA has six head coaches with multiple state championships. They are Robby Pruitt at Coffee (seven), John Reid at Tift (two), Randy McPherson at Lowndes (four), Rance Gillespie at Valdosta (two), Jeff Herron at Camden County (four) and Rush Propst at Colquitt County (five).
*Coffee hired Fitzgerald coach Robby Pruitt to replace Ken Eldridge, who was 21-24 in four seasons. Pruitt won a state-record seven state championships in Florida at Jacksonville University Christian and Union County before coming Fitzgerald in 2000. Pruitt’s overall record is 293-55-1. He was 120-21-1 in 12 seasons at Fitzgerald. Coffee has suffered three consecutive losing seasons after three nine-win seasons from 2006 to 2008.
*Tift County hired East Paulding coach John Reid to replace Jay Walls, who was 44-34 in seven seasons. Reid won two state titles in Tennessee before coming to chronic-loser East Paulding in 2005. Reid was 60-15 at East Paulding and made the state quarterfinals or better four times. Tift reached the AAAAA semifinals in 2006 under Walls but was 11-19 the past three seasons.
*Morrow still has no head coach. The school had named Sumter Central (Ala.) head coach Andre Pickering to replace interim head coach James Livingston, but Pickering didn’t get a contract because of budget cuts. Morrow, the Class AAAA champion in 1987, has finished 0-10 or 1-9 in six of its past eight seasons.
*Rockdale County hired Peachtree Ridge assistant Venson Elder in June after a rocky off-season that saw 2011 head coach Michael Etheridge fired and his original replacement, Mario Allen, dismissed. Allen denied allegations of recruiting and off-season practice violations. Elder is an Atlanta native and former University of Alabama player in his first head coaching job after 23 seasons as an assistant. Rockdale was 1-9 last season, just two years after a historic run to the Class AAAA quarterfinals, the program’s best finish. Rockdale will return to the highest classification for the first time since 1995.
*Douglas County hired Howard offensive coordinator Jason Respert, a former standout player at Northside (Warner Robins) and the University of Tennessee. Respert had been an assistant coach at Northside (2005-06), Peach County (2007) and Howard (2008-11). He was on the Northside staff during its 2006 state championship team. Douglas County has not had a winning season since 2007 (8-3), the first under John Oglesby, who was 23-28. Douglas County will be playing in the highest classification for the first time since 2001.
*Westlake hired North Atlanta head coach Stanley Pritchett to replace Greg Minnis, who was 20-21 in four seasons. Pritchett, a former Atlanta Falcons player, was 2-7 in one season at North Atlanta and 19-13 in three seasons at Booker T. Washington. Westlake last won a playoff game in 2006 under Dallas Allen, who was coach of several future NFL players, including 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton.
*Harrison of Kennesaw hired longtime NFL assistant coach Marty Galbraith to replace David Hines. Galbraith, 62, has been a coach for 40 seasons and had stops at Georgia Tech, Purdue, Wake Forest, LSU, Pittsburgh, Marshall and N.C. State. For the past seven seasons, he was an assistant with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. From 1995 to 1997, after leaving Tech, he was head coach at Lassiter in Marietta and was 19-11 in three seasons. Hines, now an assistant at North Paulding, was 22-21 in four seasons. Harrison had been 125-58 and reached the Class AAAAA final in 2000 under Bruce Cobleigh, for whom the football stadium is now named. Cobleigh, who retired after the 2007 season, will return as an assistant coach. In 2011, Harrison finished 3-7, its worst record since 1993.
*Kennesaw Mountain hired Lee County defensive coordinator Andy Scott to replace Chad McGehee, who was 1-19 in two seasons. Kennesaw Mountain has had two winning seasons (6-4 in 2005 and 2006) and no playoff berths since opening in 2000. Scott, 42, was head coach at Perry from 2005 to 2009 with a record of 27-29. His 2007 team reached the Class AAA quarterfinals. He was defensive coordinator at Walnut Grove in 2010. He also has been an assistant at Warren County in Tennessee, Troup and Coffee.
*Pebblebrook promoted defensive coordinator Tommy Macon to replace Randall Smith, who was 17-23 in four seasons. It will be the fifth head coaching job for Macon, who has been at Tompkins (1984-88), Savannah (1989-93), Josey (1997-01) and Southwest Macon (2002-06). Macon’s record is 65-138-2, but he is the last coach to achieve 10-win seasons and playoff victories at Josey (1999) and Savannah (1993). Pebblebrook had made the playoffs in nine of 12 seasons under Michael Collins and Chuck Stines but has failed since 2008, when the Cobb County school moved to the highest classification.
*Cherokee hired Etowah’s top assistant coach, Josh Shaw, who coordinated special teams and strength and conditioning and coached defensive backs for five seasons at his previous job under Bill Stewart. Shaw had coached for eight years at East Ridge High in Clermont, Fla., and West River State and Moorhead State universities. Cherokee was 57-64 in 11 seasons under Brian Dameron, including 10-win seasons in 2002 and 2003. Cherokee was 1-9 in 2011, its fourth consecutive losing season.
*Etowah hired Dave Svehla, head coach of Gridley High in El Paso, Ill., to replace Bill Stewart, who won three region titles in his six seasons. Svehla is a Nebraska native with head coaching experience at Gridley (2010-11), Raymond Central in Nebraska (2006-10) and Lincoln Northeast in Nebraska (1999-2006). Svehla’s teams have made the playoffs eight times and made one state semifinal. Svehla is in the athletics hall of fame at Northwest Missouri State. Stewart left to become head coach and athletics director at James Clemens High in Madison, Ala.
*Centennial hired Alpharetta defensive coordinator Jeff Carlberg to replace Jeff Meason, who was 24-28 the past five seasons, including 5-6 in 2011. Carlberg was defensive coordinator at Lassiter in 2008 and 2009. His teams at Lassiter and Alpharetta won region titles for the first time in those schools’ histories. Carlberg was a head coach for three seasons at Apollo in Owensboro, Ky. He’s also a former defensive coordinator at Lexington (Ky.) Catholic, where he worked under current North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire. He was a graduate assistant at Louisville under Howard Schnellenberger. Centennial last won a playoff game in 2002. Measor resigned to complete a doctorate.
*Mountain View promoted defensive coordinator Doug Giacone to replace Tim Hardy, who left to take the head job at Greater Atlanta Christian. Mountain View has finished 2-8 and 3-7 in its only full seasons. Giacone, 35, has been on the staff from the start. His other coaching stops include Riverside Military Academy (2008), Grayson (2005-07), Georgia Southern (2001-04) and his alma mater, Millikin University (1999-2000).
*Shiloh hired North Gwinnett receivers coach and special teams coordinator Troy Hobbs to replace Brian Montgomery, who was forced out amid an investigation into recruiting that led to Shiloh forfeiting its only two victories. Hobbs, 41, came to Georgia with North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphires in 2006. The two had coached together at Lexington Catholic in Kentucky. Shiloh has not had a winning season since 2003 (6-5) and last won a playoff game in 2000 (8-5), when David Pollock was an all-state defensive lineman.
For a look at the new coaches in Class AAAAA, click here.
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