Andre Montgomery has accepted full-time coaching and teaching positions at Ooltewah High School.
On Wednesday, Montgomery decided to become a full-fledged physical education teacher and assistant boys basketball coach on coach Jesse Nayadley’s staff. Montgomery has been a non-faculty assistant for the past four years while working in Athens, Tenn., as a foster-care case worker for the Tennessee Children’s Services Department.
A day earlier, Nayadley agreed to a deal that makes him the school’s assistant principal and athletic director. Nayadley will coach the Owls this season.
“I’m very excited to be on board at Ooltewah,” Montgomery said. “I’m excited they’ve asked me to do that. I’ve been helping Jesse for the past four years and I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. (Coaching) is definitely a passion of mine and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Montgomery said he plans to be on the job at Ooltewah High within two or three weeks and has already made his plans known to his current boss.
The personable Montgomery, a former basketball star at Notre Dame High School and Tennessee Wesleyan College, has been making the trip from Athens to on a daily basis, often twice a day.
He will continue to reside in Athens, so the roughly 90-mile round trip won’t go away.
“The only difference is that I’ll get my paycheck from the Hamilton County school system,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery and Nayadley were teammates for one year at Notre Dame – Nayadley was a senior when Montgomery, known by his friends at “Tank,” was a freshman – and remained friends over the years.
Nayadley is happy about making Montgomery full-time status at the school.
“We’ve been trying to get him on the faculty here for a while,” Nayadley said, “and this just kind of worked out. Andre is a great guy and his demeanor and personality with the kids is just fantastic. He’s done this job for a while now and I’m confident he can do it in his new role.”
Former athletic director Jim Jarvis, who has taken over after school principal Mark Bean became involved in controversial “conduct issues” and was suspended and then retired, is aware of the contribution Montgomery has made to the basketball program.
“He’s done a remarkable job with us,” Jarvis said. “He communicates well with our kids. He’s a good people person and an excellent coach. He has been and will be a great asset to our staff at Ooltewah.”
Montgomery, Nayadley and former Brainerd and Tennessee star Jay Price – he now coaches at Chattanooga State – have had enjoyed long-lasting friendships for decades.
Price was an assistant on Nayadley’s Notre Dame staff. Montgomery helped Price at Chattanooga State for two years before hooking up with Nayadley a year or two after he became the Owls’ head coach.
“When I called Jay to ask him about Andre he gave me a great recommendation, which I thought he would because we both know what ‘Tank’ is all about,” Nayadley said.
When the offer to join Ooltewah’s faculty and coaching staff, Montgomery knew the decision would not be that difficult to work out despite having a strong background in foster care dating to his grandfather.
Yet, coaching and teaching is something he’s strived to do for many years.
“My job with the state has been awesome,” Montgomery said. “It has taught me many life lessons. My grandmother and grandfather had foster children and that’s one reason I got into that line of work.
“But Jesse has been someone special and it started back in high school. I was a freshman and didn’t have a way to school. Jesse was a senior had drove a Mustang. Now freshmen and seniors don’t usually get along, but Jesse would pick me up in the morning and get me to school. We weren’t the best of friends, but what he did for me was great. And Jay has been like a big brother to me.”
Montgomery didn’t have to make a hard sell to his wife Bonita, a quality control engineer at the Denso company in Athens, about joining the Ooltewah staff, either.
“She’s fully on board,” Montgomery said. “And she’s as excited as I am because basketball took me through school and got me a degree. This is a way for me to give back, and she’s excited about that.”
In addition to helping Nayadley with the varsity team, Montgomery has been the junior varsity head coach and guided the Owls to a 14-0 record this past season. The Owls had only two games decided by single-digit scores. They had numerous games decided in the 37- to 63-point range.
Montgomery, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1994, averaged 29 points while playing in the same backcourt as Tommy Fox put up 34 points per game. It was one of the state’s highest-scoring tandems.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)