Steve Pardue named as ECHS head football coach
by By Chris Goltermann
Steve Pardue, who led LaGrange to three Class AAA state championships over a four-year span from 2001-2004 and compiled a record of 161-45 with the program before leaving to become an assistant at the University of Kentucky, was named head football coach at East Coweta High on Monday following approval at a called meeting by the Coweta County School Board.
Pardue, wearing a purple tie, joined wife Pamela and son, Chaz, a senior at LaGrange High, at the school to tour his new surroundings shortly after the approval of his hiring, getting a peek at East Coweta’s newly expanded fieldhouse in the process before a scheduled meeting with the Indians’ returning players before noon.
The Indians new head coach is no stranger to the county, having faced East Coweta eight times in the 1990s in addition to the near annual meeting with Newnan (1994-1999, 2004-2010).
Following an extensive search to find a replacement for Clint Wade, who stepped down after seven years as East Coweta’s head coach and 22 years within the football program, Pardue accepted an offer after interviewing both with ECHS Principal Evan Horton and Athletic Director Ken Kesselring, each of which had deep coaching roots previously within the county.
“I am really excited. I think this is a great opportunity,” Pardue said. “When we played here in the 90s, it had a good tradition, good fan support. So I was hoping it would be a good fit for me. The first time I met Evan and Ken I really hit it off with them and share a vision.”
Both Horton and Kesselring agreed that Pardue’s qualifications and familiarity with the area made for a natural fit.
“His reputation precedes him,” Kesselring said. “I had heard of Coach Pardue even before I came to coach in this state. I’m looking forward to getting things started.”
“Just look at the record. You don’t get to 161-47 without being excellent at what you do,” Horton added. “Yes, football is a big part of any school, but the benefits that it will pay for the school as a whole I feel will be tremendous. I’m just tickled to have him here.”
That vision includes East Coweta while continuing a tradition of annual success with a blue-collar approach to hard work and excellence.
“Every school’s different. You’ve got to be able to adjust a little bit. I think the key is we want to build a program,” Pardue said. “We don’t want to have just a good season here or there. We want it to be where they say East Coweta, you know what you’re going to get. For 48 minutes they’re going to play hard every Friday night. The foundation at our program here will be like LaGrange, in the weight room. You have to have a tremendous off-season program, summer program to get you ready for the season. We’ll become hard working kids. We want to be known as tough guys. Not dumb guys, but guys that are going to play hard and bring the lunch pail to work.”
While Pardue was at LaGrange, the program played at the highest GHSA classification in AAAA before dropping down prior to its state championship run in the early 2000s. The Grangers had losing record in just two of his 17 seasons as head coach. “We played six-A schools at LaGrange, so that’s not much different,” he said. “The state of Georgia there’s really not much difference of classification. There’s good football players everywhere.”
Pardue becomes just the third head football coach at East Coweta since 1990 when the then Class AA school hired another former LaGrange High head coach in Danny Cronic. The Indians have missed the state playoffs just once since that time, but have also reached the second round of the postseason once since 2008. The program is also coming off back-to-back sub. 500 seasons for the first time since 1982.
While Pardue had yet to meet with the current staff, there are at least two familiar faces on board in offensive assistant J.R. Revere and defensive coordinator Ahmand Tinker, both of whom played for him at LaGrange. “J.R. was my first quarterback,” Pardue said. “Ahmand was one of the first players I coached at LaGrange [as an assistant]. He came back and worked for me for a little bit the staff of my first state championship in 2001.”
Pardue said he hoped to be able to come in and “hit the ground running” as soon as possible while at the same time getting established in the Sharpsburg area. He and wife Pam had already been attending church nearby since returning to Georgia. “I never really wanted to be a college coach really to be honest. But the opportunity to coach in Kentucky and to work for Joker Phillips, one of my best friends, those two things together, I took the job. I enjoyed my time there. Unfortunately, they got rid of Joker, and when they did that they got rid of me,” he said. “I really didn’t want my son to go to three high schools. I told him he had a year and a half of school left and I had a year and a half of contract left. He made the decision he wanted to finish out at LaGrange, so we moved back there and kinda took a year off.”
While Pardue admitted he stayed away from attending games last fall, the coaching bug hadn’t left, having seen other coaches, including mentor Conrad Nix — a two-time state champion at Northside-Warner-Robins who won 260 career games — benefit from a short break.
“I consider Conrad Nix my mentor and I had forgotten that he had taken time off in the 90s. He had gotten out. Northside called and he came back and stayed for 17-18 years,” Pardue said. “I don’t know. Maybe sometimes you need a little break. But I really am excited.”