Tom Wright named WHS football coach
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga had little time to bring in a new football coach. Principal Marshall Gasperson feels the right person was already teaching at WHS.
The Watauga County Board of Education took Gasperson's recommendation and hired Tom Wright to be the new football coach at the school. Wright will be the interim head coach for the 2012 season, and then he and Gasperson will get together at the end of the season and evaluate if Wright wants to keep the job.
Wright takes over for Tim Pruitt, who resigned June 4 to move to Cherryville.
Gasperson, who worked in the county office in the personnel department, felt that Wright is a quality coach and the person who is right for the job.
Being from a personnel position, I felt if we had gone through the interview process, we would have been lucky to get a name before the school board before the July meeting, Gasperson said. I felt that if we did not have a quality in-house candidate, we would have gone and done that. The term interim is a process term that we have. Tom and I both understand that if wants to do this permanently, and we've talked about conversations we'll have in the future, I do think he has a desire to do that.
Wright is no stranger to coaching. He was the head coach of the girls' basketball team for six years and was an assistant coach under former grid coach Adrian Snow and for the first two years under Pruitt.
Wright also coached football in Florida and has been a head coach on the middle school level, giving him 22 years as a coach in some capacity. Even with that experience, Wright said he was a little reluctant, to take the position. Wright talked to Gasperson and to others, including Pruitt, before he decided to take the job.
I'm very excited. I missed coaching and being around the student-athletes and the camaraderie of the staff. I missed those things, so I'm very excited about it.
Wright will also stay on as athletic director. Marc Payne was the last head coach to also be the athletic director at Watauga High School. Payne was the school's boys' basketball coach.
I gave this a one-year commitment with the understanding that I'll still be the athletic director, Wright said. At the end of the season, we'll sit down and evaluate the situation and we'll go from there. This year, I'll be the AD and the head football coach.
Gasperson said Wright will get some help from assistant athletic director Cindy Lentz, who is also the athletic department's trainer.
Wright said having the bulk of the football staff in place is a big help in getting started. He'll meet with them and with the team on Wednesday. Wright also said he may bring in a couple of assistants, though did not say who they would be, or what their responsibilities would be.
Defensive coordinator Klay Anderson returns for the 2012 season. So do coaches Brad Isaacs, Dustin Kerley, Chris Wallace, Marshall Thomas, Caleb Purdue and Sam Coe.
One of the big draws of the job is the staff, Wright said. I've had a couple of opportunities to be a head coach and either it didn't feel right or the timing was not right or it was not the right staff. This is the right time and the right staff. It's part of the reason why I'm so excited. I'm surrounded by good people. We'll bring in a couple of people who were not on staff last year, but the core is still there.
Wright said he would not make a whole lot of changes when it came to philosophy in strategy. He was pleased with the development of the Watauga defense last year, and said that there may be some changes offensively, but he would still use the spread offense as a primary set.
Defensively, we were extremely successful. I feel good about what we were doing defensively, Wright said. We're going to be the same on the defensive side of the ball. We'll make some changes offensively. It's a good time to make changes because of changes in personnel. We're losing our quarterback, our top running back, our tight end and some receivers and a lineman or two. I'm sure we'll some of the same things. We'll be in some type of spread.
Watauga's players are in the middle of their off-season conditioning programs. The Pioneers also will host two 7-on-7 competitions in July before preseason practices officially begin July 30.
I'll be here running the summer stuff, Wright said. We have somebody, Nate Harrington, who has been helping us in the weight room. The assistant coaches will also step in and help and do some skill work. It will be a team effort.