East Ridge has found a football coach with experience both in winning tradition and rebuilding success.
Principal Zac Brown said Monday that he has hired Tracy Malone as the successor to Mike Martin, who resigned as the Pioneers' coach last month.
"He's been looking to get back to this area," Brown said of the McMinn County native. "He's a high-energy and motivated guy who seems to want to do the right thing by kids and wants to be involved with the community, and that's what we were looking for."
Martin's coaching career began on Gary Rankin's staff at Murfreesboro Riverdale, which reached three state championship games and won the TSSAA Class AAA title in 2001. Malone has built programs at Ardmore, Ala., and White County into winners.
"Winning the state title was a lot of fun, but as a head coach it was probably turning programs around [that meant the most]," said Malone, who graduated from Middle Tennessee State.
Malone took over an Ardmore program that was winless the year before he arrived and in his first year directed the team to an 8-3 record with a playoff game.
"We lost the playoff game, but it was to the eventual Class 4A state champ," he recalled.
More recently, he coached White County to back-to-back playoff seasons.
Between Riverdale and Ardmore, Malone coached at Mundy's Mill High in Jonesboro, Ga., and at Grayson High in Gwinnett County, Ga., serving each as offensive coordinator.
He has been a head coach for six years and has been an offensive coordinator or play-caller the past nine.
"The biggest thing that appealed to me when I started looking at East Ridge was the tradition in athletics," Malone said. "Football has been good and they've been competitive in volleyball, basketball and wrestling. Too, it was the stability of the coaching situation. One of the assistants told me this morning that I was only the seventh head [football] coach at the school."
Stability was important, but so were the local school system and the Chattanooga and East Ridge communities.
"Hamilton County is a great system to be in, and this area is a great city to live in," Malone said. "Those are things that are important for a family man."
Malone and his wife, Kim, have two sons -- Reed, 8, and Tate, 5.
He's eager to get started and get the Pioneers and himself around the 8-ball caused by his late hiring and the graduation of 16 seniors.
"We want to eliminate the clutter. Yes, there was a big senior class and I was hired late, so I guess some could view this as a rebuilding season," Malone said. "But I don't intend for us to use either one of those as excuses."
He has favored a shotgun-style offense and a 4-3 defense. He plans to stick with each.
"While we'll run a shotgun, it will be with a tight end all the time," he said. "I want for us to establish the run and be as multiple as we can in the running game, but I still want to be balanced. The system is flexible enough to enhance the kids' strengths."
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.