It didn’t take long for former Warren County High School coaches Tommy Johnson and Erick Baird to find new positions. Both will be coaching closer to family and friends this fall.
Johnson recently accepted the offensive coordinator position with the Fort Walton Beach High School football program in Florida while Baird will serve as an assistant girls basketball coach with District 6-AAA rival Rhea County next year.
Johnson, who went 7-33 in his four years as Pioneer football coach, is from Florida and is happy to be going back home.
“This position takes me back home and to a place I’m familiar with,” said Johnson. “Coaching in my hometown is always what I’ve wanted to do. I think it’s going to be a good fit.”
After resigning in December, Johnson interviewed with several teams across the Southeast – including schools in Murfreesboro, Kentucky and Florida. Ultimately, the chance to go back home and reunite with a family friend was too much to pass up.
“The coach at Fort Walton Beach is a close friend of the family. He and my dad were good friends,” said Johnson. “It’s going to be great working in an area I’ve known for a long time.”
Family ties were also in play when Baird decided to accept the position with Rhea County. Baird and his wife Amy – the WCHS track and cross country coach – each have family members within 15 minutes of Rhea County High School.
Having family close by, along with loads of talent coming through the Rhea County program, helped Baird make the decision to turn down two head coaching offers and join the Lady Eagles. Baird, who will also oversee youth development in the Rhea County program, believes he’s coming into a winning situation that should only continue to improve in the next few years.
“This is a really good time for Rhea County basketball. The freshman team looks really good and the classes behind them are also very talented,” said Baird. “There’s lots of talent coming through the program.”
While Baird is one of five coaches who won’t be back at Warren County next season – joining Johnson, boys basketball coach John Dillard, boys soccer coach Todd Willmore and softball coach David Upton – he’s the only one who was relieved of his duties. When offered a chance to resign in March, Baird declined and was fired. Baird was coming off a season where the Lady Pioneers finished 17-15 – the program’s first winning season in nearly two decades.
Landing in Rhea County gives Baird an opportunity to see his old team twice a year in the regular season. Those games will probably gain extra attention, especially when Baird makes his return to Charlie Dalton Gym this winter.
“We’ll see Warren County every year. Now I’m on the side where I’m trying to game plan to beat them instead of working to help them win,” said Baird.