Tim James is returning for a second stint as head coach for East Ridge football. He previously coached at his alma mater from 2001 to 2007.
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There were negatives to consider, but the word scrawled largest on Tim James' list of pros and cons as he considered applying for the vacant head football coaching job at East Ridge High School was "home."

James — who is currently finishing the school year at Georgia's LaFayette High, where he served as an assistant — is returning to the school where he played and coached, the East Ridge community where he was raised and the stadium named for his father.

"East Ridge is home," James said. "I feel I was called to go back home and ensure that Raymond James Stadium is rebuilt and that the community has the stadium they deserve."

In announcing the hiring Friday, East Ridge principal Tammy Helton said: "Tim has tons of experience. He was the head coach here before he went to Heritage and started their program. He's from here."

James served as the Pioneers' head coach from 2001 to 2007 — going 41-35, according to the Tennessee Prep Football Database ( — before undertaking the task of starting a new program in Georgia at Catoosa County's Heritage. He was 14-46 in six seasons there, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association (, and became defensive coordinator at LaFayette in 2014.

"I did a lot of praying, and fortunately Tammy felt I was the guy for the team and the job," James said. "I don't want to let them down."

James was one of five candidates interviewed after Helton pared the original applications list from 71.

"I can say we are thrilled to have him. He's exactly what we need. He's a man of integrity and a man who already has a large investment in this program," Helton said. "He is very much an East Ridge Pioneer, and it showed in his interview. He has the knowledge to keep us going in the direction we've been headed."

James played football at East Ridge for his father in addition to participating in other sports.

The home stands of Raymond James Stadium, which were connected to the football team's field house, were condemned during the 2015 season and subsequently demolished.

But last fall was still almost a magical season for the East Ridge community as the Pioneers, coached by Tracy Malone, set a program record with 12 wins and didn't lose until reaching the Class 3A state quarterfinals. The previous best showing for an East Ridge football team was 10-2 in 2001, Tim James' first year as head coach.

Malone resigned in February and was hired as Whitwell's head coach earlier this week.

"There were reasons not to take the job, including coming in after that type year and the fact that we're looking at rebuilding the home stands and a field house," James said. "I do know we're going to have football next year at East Ridge. It's getting ready to be a whirlwind, but that's OK."

James will meet with Pioneers underclassmen Monday before beginning to assimilate a coaching staff, and he will spend more time at East Ridge during LaFayette's spring break on April 4-8, the week after Hamilton County Schools' spring break.

He is aware, though, that most of East Ridge's offensive players are returning, and he has had a chance to review last season's team.

"I don't see a need for major wholesale changes, although we will probably make a few tweaks," he said. "The fewer changes we have might be best."

James was among the first to join a core fundraising group that hopes to collect enough money to get field house construction underway.

"I don't know how the recent change in leadership at the county department of education is going to affect rebuilding the stadium," he said in reference to Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith's resignation on Monday.

"The alumni association is very active in fundraising to get the money we need. There was some discussion within the department of education of possibly rebuilding those stands, but I think that may have been put on a back burner."

Contact Ward Gossett at or 423-886-4765. Follow him on Twitter @wardgossett.