The new era at Ooltewah High School, already underway with the placement of Robin Copp as principal and Brad Jackson as assistant principal and athletic director, took another step Wednesday with the hiring of Jay Williams and Theanthony Haymon as boys' basketball coaches.
Williams will head the program with Haymon as an assistant coach.
"We're thrilled to make the announcement," Copp said. "Jay's years of coaching and administrative experience have provided him with the foundation and experience we were looking for in a head coach. Theanthony's experience as a college and professional player and his time as a youth coach make him a great complement to coach Williams.
"We think they'll make a great combination."
An incident involving the team during the 2015-16 season and the subsequent upheaval at the school eventually resulted in principal Jim Jarvis and assistant principal/athletic director Jesse Nayadley being reassigned and head coach Tank Montgomery and volunteer assistant Karl Williams being dismissed. The incident, allegedly involving the sexual assault of an Ooltewah player by teammates, occurred while the team was staying in Gatlinburg to participate in a basketball tournament before Christmas.
The remainder of the season was canceled in January. Some legal aspects of the criminal cases regarding the incident have been resolved with others ongoing.
Jackson said he was apprehensive at first about moving from East Hamilton, where he had been an assistant principal and athletic director.
"I had spent so much time developing relationships and I was leaving great coaches and administrators," he said. "Then I thought about the folks in the central office entrusting me to go to Ooltewah with the situation they've been through, and I felt honored. I feel the new administration can make a positive difference. Along with Mrs. Copp, we're trying to develop good lines of communication with the boosters and within the community."
They went no further than the Ooltewah community to make the basketball hires. Both coaches live in the community, and Williams is not only an Ooltewah graduate, his children also attended Ooltewah. Haymon has served as a youth basketball coach and softball umpire.
"Coach Williams has a deep appreciation for the community as well as the balances which are required for student-athletes and embodies the core principles we would like to instill in our athletes at OHS," Copp said, "and we feel that Coach Haymon's experience as a college and professional player and his enthusiasm will serve to further the goals we seek."
The incident last December generated a firestorm among news outlets and within the Hamilton County school board, but neither Williams nor Haymon were dissuaded by that in deciding to accept their new jobs.
"To talk with Mrs. Copp, I think the attitude is to look forward and move forward," Williams said. "It's a great place to be. Three of our children have come through here and I didn't have a second thought about applying. Winning is a byproduct of doing things the right way. There are a lot more important things than basketball, and we're all here to help these young people become productive citizens."
Said Haymon: "Even in the interview process, from a personal level I understand the situation and would change it if I could. We're blessed to come into a situation where we can look and move forward."
Williams spent most of his teaching career in north Georgia at Northwest Whitfield High School, LaFayette middle and high schools and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. Over the years he has coached basketball, football, golf and track and field, served as an athletic director and worked as both a principal and assistant principal.
Since 2012 he has served as principal at Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy, a Whitfield County high school.
Originally from Louisiana, the 6-foot-9 Haymon played junior college basketball there before signing with Austin Peay, where he was named outstanding newcomer. Upon graduation, he spent six years playing professionally in China, Finland and Mexico.
New Ooltewah athletic director Jackson highlighted the Ooltewah link for both coaches.
"Their community ties will be invaluable to a program that has been under such intense scrutiny in the last year, and he understands the dynamics of a position that will be under the microscope," Jackson said. "His (Williams') experience and this combination of coaches will set the patch to a smooth transition for our students who are anxious to start a new season."
Williams just retired in Georgia.
"I always loved the administrative end, but you know they say once a coach always a coach, and I missed it," Williams said. "This is a very special place."
Haymon, a patient assistance specialist at Erlanger, had similar feelings about being away from basketball.
"I retired in 2011 and always had a love for the game, but I had to give it some time after I first quit," he said. "I have since wanted to get back out there."
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him on Twitter @wardgossett.
Updated July 28, 2016 at 12:22 a.m. with additional information.