Central High School principal Finley King may have found a jewel to extricate the Purple Pounders from a sticky situation.
He hired English teacher Ryan Mallory, who was already on his faculty, to be the head football coach after the hiring of KiJuan Ware went awry.
"[Mallory] has been a coach for 13 years at the middle school, high school and NCAA Division I levels," King said.
Few at Central outside of the administration knew Mallory had a football background, although it became obvious after he applied when John Allen resigned. Mallory was among five finalists.
Mallory, who is stepping into his first football head-coaching job, wasn't offended that he may be considered to be a second choice.
"My dad's a ball coach, and I spent 20 years watching this stuff," he said. "Pete Carroll wasn't Southern Cal's first choice, and Alabama went through Mike Price [and Mike Shula and Joe Kines] before they got Nick Saban."
A former walk-on at Memphis (where his father Rick was an assistant coach), Mallory served then Tigers coach Tommy West as a student assistant and then a graduate assistant. He arrived at Central just before school started last August but did not serve on the coaching staff.
"Coming in that late in the year, I figured they had what they needed," he said. "It was also an opportunity to take some time off and re-energize and reflect on what I'd do [as a head coach] if I ever got the chance."
He acknowledged that he is stepping into something of a bizarre situation with the Pounders football program.
"Most of the kids haven't done anything since November. We have to get them working again. Too, they didn't lift weights over the summer, and we have spring break next week," the new coach said. "We've got a nine-week push till the [TSSAA-mandated no-contact] dead period, and what we want to do is hit it hard and get in shape.
"We want to focus on learning how to work. We probably won't work in pads this spring. To put the guys in pads since they haven't done anything since last November would be irresponsible."
Mallory proved immediately that he is quick with a quip. When asked what he planned to do with offensive and defensive schemes, he responded, "Good players, hopefully."
Mallory will be talking with assistants from last year's staff and also hopes to bring in some others.
"I don't want a big staff. I want to keep it small and all of us on the same page," he said. "The most important thing is that we bring in good people, then on top of that good football coaches."
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.