Milligan named new Greene football coach

Larry Milligan was named the new head coach of the Greene County football team last week. Milligan previously worked as the Tigers’ head coach from 2002 to 2008 when he went 52-28.

PHOTO: Contributed

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

After a search that took more than two months, the Greene County football team has its new head coach.

Larry Milligan was recommended by GCHS officials early last week and the Greene County Board of Education approved his hire during its meeting last Wednesday night.

Milligan's name likely sounds familiar to many throughout the county. He previously led the Tigers from 2002 to 2008. Before that, he was an assistant coach at Greene during the 1990s.

“I think every head coach has a place that they consider their home,” Milligan said in an exclusive interview with Lake Oconee News. “Greene's always been home to me and it's probably the only job in the state of Georgia that I would ever come out of retirement for.”

When Milligan left Greene after the 2008-09 school year, he ventured to Lexington where he coached the Oglethorpe County Patriots through the 2013 season. Milligan retired from teaching in Georgia following that school year. Currently, he serves as the dean of students at Fernandina Beach High School in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Milligan's appointment follows the dismissal of former head coach Robert Edwards in December. Edwards spent six seasons in Greensboro and finished with a 29-37 overall record after going just 3-7 this past season.

GCHS athletic director Russell Morgan said earlier this week he was relieved the coaching search was finally over. The process took a while because, according to Morgan, nearly 70 coaches sent in applications.

After narrowing down the field to 15 candidates, Morgan and other school officials underwent a series of interviews. They cut the prospects down to five and brought in a five-person committee to select the team’s new coach.

Morgan said there were two main things he kept in mind while conducting the coaching search.

“Two of my biggest things that I personally was looking for was somebody I knew would be a strong disciplinarian, that would hold kids accountable for their actions, and somebody that was very organized,” Morgan said. “I know for a fact [Milligan] is very disciplined and very organized. I worked with him four years from 1998 to 2002 [at Washington-Wilkes]. He did a great job as far as discipline and organization are concerned.”

Other candidates surely fit that description. Morgan said there was something that made Milligan the clear favorite, though.

“The one thing that he had on everybody, of course, is the fact he'd been here before,” Morgan said. “He knew what he was getting into, he knows what the community's like and he was successful here. That's a pretty big 'plus' that he had on everybody.”

Milligan went 52-28 overall at Greene and reached the postseason four-straight seasons from 2003 to 2007. His 65 percent winning percentage is the best in program history.

The five-person committee that hired Morgan consisted of community members Lou Tepper and Ronald McWhorter as well as GCHS teacher Greg Simmons. Morgan and GCHS principal James Peek rounded out the committee.

Peek said Milligan’s role within the school has not yet been determined.

“Coach Milligan will be hired at 49 percent,” Peek said via email. “He has a variety of educational certifications and will be utilized in an educational area that is of greatest need to Greene County High School and where his educational talents will be maximized to their greatest potential.”

Filling the rest of the Greene coaching staff is the next part of the process.

Morgan said Milligan has the freedom to hire whomever he needs to fill spots on the staff. The only caveat is the coaching candidate must also satisfy an academic need within the school.

Milligan said he has some ideas of coaches he may bring into the fold. He was not able to name anyone but he said he likely won’t be the only person returning to the program.

“I can't really say right now, but there will be some familiar faces that have been there before,” Milligan said. “Maybe some familiar faces as far as coaches go and as far as ex-players go.”

Milligan is expected to be in Greene County this Friday when he will meet his new players for the first time.

Although he hasn’t seen them in person, Milligan isn’t wholly unfamiliar with the Tigers. He said he’s watched a little bit of film. Milligan praised the players for the effort with which they played in those clips.

Friday’s meeting will jumpstart the new era in Greene County football. Morgan said he hopes Milligan will help make the team more refined.

“It's going to be different,” Morgan said. “Not saying better or worse, but it's going to be different. It's gonna probably take a few years for it to really be [Milligan’s] program. I've been through coaching changes a few times and the first thing it's going to require is kids and coaches building a relationship with each other. The faster that can happen, the faster things can turn around. I'm expecting them to be pretty competitive right away. My expectation is when you look out on Friday night you see a program that is organized. You don't see a lot of penalties that are, basically, coaching penalties. You see a disciplined group of kids that's doing things the way they're being taught to do it. If you do those things, your success will come.”

And success is exactly what Milligan hopes to achieve in Greensboro. Milligan said his primary goal is making the Tigers a mainstay in the playoffs and taking them deep into the postseason with regularity.

The key to getting to that point, Milligan said, is improving the team’s weight training program and working hard in practice. Although it may take time to make Greene a powerhouse again, Milligan said he expects to win right away.

His ultimate goal, though, is bringing a championship to Greensboro.

Milligan’s most successful season during his previous stint in Greene ended in disappointing fashion. He steered the Tigers, led by star quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, to an undefeated record during the 2005 regular season. The Tigers looked unstoppable as they entered the postseason.

Greene won its first three playoff games and advanced into the semifinal round against Charlton County. That game, played in the Georgia Dome, was an instant classic that ended after a blocked extra point attempt sent the Tigers home in a 34-33 defeat.

Milligan isn’t shy when talking about that loss. In fact, Milligan said part of the reason he came back to Greene was to have a shot at finishing what he started 13 years ago.

“There is no doubt that there is unfinished business there,” he said. “I wouldn't be coming back if I didn't think there was an opportunity for us to play for and to win it all. That's the goal there.”

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