MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – While the prep athletic spotlight is on Spring Fling, Ooltewah High School managed to make news Thursday afternoon.
Jon Massey, who formerly played and coached baseball at Ooltewah High School, has been hired as the Lady Owls’ new softball coach.
Massey, who turns 49 next month, replaces veteran Norma Nelson, who was fired on May 14 after 20 years directing the Ooltewah softball program, in a controversial move by principal Mark Bean.
“I’m excited,” Massey said. “I’m going to be relying on (assistant coach) Heidi Moses, a really special coach. The dynamics of baseball and softball are very similar with a difference in some distances, but it’s all about organization and fundamentals and we’re going to work to make our team successful.”
Massey was graduated from Ooltewah in 1982 and signed to play baseball at the University of Tennessee under coach John Whited. He played with the Vols for two years and then finished his athletic career at Birmingham-Southern.
Massey then coached for Steve Longley at Cleveland State Community College for two years and eventually graduated from UT-Chattanooga. He then worked at McKee Foods and later decided he wanted to teach and coach.
He joined the Ooltewah faculty in 2001 and was an assistant baseball coach for Joe Wingate for four years. When Wingate left for Arkansas State, Massey moved into the head position and held that post from 2006-08. He had a 79-46 record and the per-season breakdown went like this: 35-9, 28-18 and 16-19.
“I really enjoyed coaching baseball, but I was also coaching football and it’s hard to do both sports when you’ve got young children,” Massey said. “I chose to give up one of them, but I’m starting my 10th year coaching freshman football.
“The opportunity to coach softball – I’ve helped coach my daughter’s teams in the past – came up and I look forward to working with the girls.”
Ooltewah athletic director Jim Jarvis confirmed Massey’s official hiring Thursday afternoon.
“We’re very fortunate to have on staff a person with the background of a Jon Massey,” Jarvis said. “Jon played here, played at UT and finished at Birmingham-Southern. He returned to Ooltewah in 2001 and helped with the varsity baseball program, eventually becoming the head coach. He was very successful and ran an outstanding program.”
Massey, who teaches special education, said he is currently working to put in place a pitching coach and Bri Shoemake, an Ooltewah graduate who earned softball all-America honors at Carson-Newman College will join the staff.
Nelson, who succeeded Jim Lovell, finished runner-up in the state tournament in 1994-95 and 1997 in her first four years as the head coach. She was with the program for 25 years, the last 20 as head coach, and won more than 600 games.
Nelson captured three state championships in 1990, 1992 and 2008, a season in which the Lady Owls finished 46-3-1. In those title years, Ooltewah went 135-21.
Ooltewah also won a state softball title under Lovell in 1982.
“Norma is a friend of mine,” Massey said. “She will do well in whatever she decides to do. She’ll be fine.”
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)