The biggest move of his coaching career took Tank Montgomery only about a foot farther down the bench. When Ooltewah boys' basketball coach Jesse Nayadley was suddenly thrust into taking over as assistant principal and athletic director three months ago, it also sped up the process of Montgomery taking over the team.
While Nayadley was given special permission by the Hamilton County Board of Education to continue as Ooltewah's head coach for this season, he decided to swap roles with his longtime assistant. Montgomery now runs practices and calls all the shots during games, while Nayadley sits on the bench during games and gives a unique perspective.
"I just decided about a week before the season that with all the responsibilities I would have in administration now, I would rather the team have some consistency at the top this year," Nayadley said. "I would rather Tank be in charge from day one in case things got hectic for me at some point. The kids deserve to have the same leadership from start to finish this season.
"I knew what Tank could do because we've worked together for a long time. He was going to take over at some point soon, but this just seemed like the right time for it to go ahead and happen."
The two have worked together since they played for Notre Dame in the early 1990s. Nayadley later coached at his alma mater for 11 years and has been at Ooltewah the last seven seasons, never having worked as an assistant in his career before this year.
Montgomery traded a 10-year career with the state's Department of Children Services to pursue his dream of becoming a coach. After working as an assistant at Chattanooga State for three years he has been on the Owls' staff the last five seasons, helping them advance to the Class AAA state tournament once and reach the sectional round two other times.
"I've had opportunities to take coaching jobs at other schools, but I had a great situation at Ooltewah and knew I was in line to get my shot eventually here," Montgomery said. "When Jesse asked me to come help him, at first I told him I'd have to pray about it. Once I got here, it's been such a good fit, I knew this is where I wanted to be.
"It just so happens I got my shot at being head coach sooner than we planned."
After Thursday night's win, Ooltewah stands at 7-3 and will play Boyd-Buchanan tonight in a semifinal of the Times Free Press Best of Preps tournament.
"Honestly, the biggest adjustment is having to deal with parents and all the other things off the court," Montgomery said. "Its a pretty big difference, moving one seat over, but the best thing is working with Jesse has prepared me and he's still right there next to me whenever I need advice."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...