December 6, 2009 12:57:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
Pat Byrd enjoyed his 19 years being a football coach at Amory High School.
When Lee County School Superintendent Mike Scott first contacted Byrd about coaching the Saltillo High School football team a few days before Thanksgiving, Byrd wasn''t ready to leave Amory.
Scott called him again a few days later during the Thanksgiving break and the persistence paid off.
Byrd felt he owed it to himself to give it some thought.
He came to the conclusion that a change wouldn''t be a bad idea.
"I wasn''t looking for a job," Byrd said. "It was just time for a different challenge."
Byrd''s hiring at Saltillo isn''t official until the Lee County School Board meets on Monday night. He plans to say more about the position after the meeting.
"I hate to say a whole lot until I''m approved to be honest," Byrd said.
Former Amory and current Madison Central coach Bobby Hall was happy to see Byrd get the opportunity.
"I was very much in favor of him taking this job," Hall said. "I think Saltillo is a job with a lot of untapped potential. Pat had been at Amory for 19 of his 22 years in this profession and sometimes a fresh start is good for people.
"I think Pat will do well there and he''s a wonderful, wonderful person. I love him like a brother."
Byrd was the head coach of the Panthers for 10 of his 19 years.
After helping Amory to a 6-5 record and into the second round of the Class 3A playoffs in 2008, the Panthers finished 3-9 this season while moving up to Class 4A, Region 4.
Caledonia coach David Boykin respects Byrd as a coach and a person. He remembers tough games against Amory under Byrd''s leadership.
"Every time we went there or he came to us, it was a dogfight," Boykin said. "He''s the kind of coach who''s going to play tough defense and he''s going to make it hard on you. He does a great job with the kids."
Byrd doesn''t know yet whether he''ll just coach football or also be the athletic director at Saltillo and he doesn''t anticipate taking any of his Amory assistant coaches with him to Saltillo.
"(Amory) wants to keep the ones that are there at least through spring practice," Byrd said.
As far as his successor with the Panthers, Byrd said, "I don''t have a clue who they are going to hire here. I know they have already had some people inquire. They''ll have a lot of people interested in it. I''m sure of that."
n Starkville Academy begins search: Starkville Academy is in the initial stages of a football coaching search after the resignation of Brian Sims two weeks ago.
The Volunteers believe they have some time before finding a replacement.
"We''re in no hurry and we''ve got a couple of months here," Starkville Academy Athletic Director Glenn Schmidt said. "We''ve got some assistant coaches on staff handling the conditioning and the working out with the guys in the weight room. We''re going to take our time and be thorough."
Sims made the decision to leave the Volunteers prior to Thanksgiving in order to give the school plenty of time to find a new coach.
"It gives them the best chance to move on," Sims said.
Sims said he wasn''t ready to announce his future plans.
"I can''t let that cat out of the bag just now," Sims said.
Sims coached Starkville Academy for two seasons and had a 4-18 record. The Volunteers were 0-11 this season.
Prior to his stint at Starkville Academy, Sims was successful in five years as the head coach and assistant at Winston Academy.
As the head coach, he had a 29-12 record. The Patriots advanced to the semifinals of the playoffs, then went to the North Half game the next two seasons.