“Home ain’t always where you graduated from,” Howard said, recalling the advice his buddy gave him. “Now, it makes sense.”
Howard left Spring Garden, the school he guided from 2003-2009, to take the head football coaching gig at Ohatchee.
Tuesday night, the Cherokee County Board of Education approved the recommendation to hire Howard back at Spring Garden at its bi-weekly meeting. The move came exactly two weeks after the board accepted the resignation of former Spring Garden coach John McKay.
Howard led the Panthers to the second round of the playoffs in 2008 and 2009 before heading to Ohatchee. In two seasons at the Creek Bank, he posted a combined record of 5-15, going 2-8 in 2010 and 3-7 this past fall.
“My wife is a teacher at Spring Garden and both of my girls go to school at Spring Garden,” he said. “With Coach McKay stepping down, I felt like this was a door that was being opened for me. It was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Howard submitted a letter of resignation last Tuesday, he said.
Two years ago, Howard said, he made the right decision.
Coaching at his alma mater had always been a career goal.
But for a man who’s resided in Cherokee County for the past 20 years and lives two short miles from the Panthers’ campus it was time to head back.
“All of the people in Ohatchee have been good to me and the kids have been great,” he said. “I told them, ‘If y’all ever need anything from me, even if it’s five years from now, call me. But I can’t stand up and tell you all to be the best fathers and the best husbands you can be if I’m not being that in my own life and they really understood that.”
Howard said he feels he left Ohatchee’s program in “good shape”. Their staff includes Shon Burney, who’s had head coaching experience at Talladega County Central, Glenn Toney, who also has head coaching experience, Randall Toney, Kevin Elwell and Blake Jennings.
Howard said none of his assistants will make the move with him.
“I feel like we’ve assembled one of the better staffs in the area and I think they’re set up to succeed in the future,” Howard said.
Howard will finish out the school year at Ohatchee, carrying out his responsibilities as a physical education teacher. However, he plans to get to work immediately at Spring Garden. He’s set to meet with the team today and will guide them through spring training.
One of his first orders of business, he said, will be to attempt to lure McKay to rejoin the Panthers’ staff as an assistant. McKay was served under Howard during his first stint at Spring Garden. McKay was the head junior high coach and also had responsibilities on Friday nights with the varsity.
“Me and John have talked,” Howard said. “I told him, ‘I know you’re tired right now’. He can work in any capacity he wants. It’s up to him.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.