The Chattanooga area is losing one of its premier high school coaches. East Hamilton’s Steve Garland is relinquishing the reins of the Hurricanes baseball team to make the move to administration at the school, as an Assistant Principal.
According to Garland, “Studying to gain licensure as a School Administrator over 20 years ago, this was something that I always looked to do down the road. I am very excited about the opportunity to be Assistant Principal at such a great school, but I feel very bittersweet about walking away from the field.”
He lamented the fact that there was never a good time to step away from a program he built from scratch and loves deeply.
“I will desperately miss coaching. I love working with the young men on the field and love the game so much. I am not burned out. My desire is to return to coaching at some point in the future, he said. “This is the type opportunity that I could not pass up, for fear that I wouldn’t get this chance again. For an un-recruited four-year walk-on small-college baseball player, it felt pretty gratifying to be recruited into school administration. I have shed tears over this decision and now again, as I am reflecting on it. I have been a part of a Baseball team (as player, and mostly as coach) every year since 1978. I will carry amazing experiences, memories, and friendships with me, but this is a major life change.”
Some of those experiences come from a spirited rivalry with Ooltewah’s Brian Hitchcox.
According to the Owls’ head coach, “A big part of coaching is getting the best out of your players and competing against coaches who did the same.” Reflecting on his time coaching against Garland, Hitchcox said, “Coaches (like Garland) bring out the best and worst in your teams. He is a tough competitor and would always make things difficult for you, exposing your team’s weaknesses.”
The two veteran coaches began competing against each other in 2012 and “every game was back and forth,” said Hitchcox. He continued, “Home field advantage meant nothing when we played. It seemed like the visitor always played with a pressure to win at the other’s home.”
He reflected that in 2016, during the last week of the season East Hamilton and Ooltewah were playing for the district tournament’s “3” seed, which automatically advanced to the best 2 of 3 round. “They smoked us at our place and then the next day we went to their place and won.”
In 2017, Hitchcox mused that, perhaps, two of the best high school games ever played were at the District 5-AAA tournament at Walker Valley between the two teams.
The Ooltewah skipper said, “Steve has such a great personality and a quirky demeanor. He has a way of developing great relationships with his players. I’m going to miss seeing him in the dugout across the way.”
The veteran coach enjoyed a successful run on the diamond with the Canes, but, at this point in his teaching career felt like the time was right to make the change, saying, “This is the type opportunity that I could not pass up, for fear that I wouldn’t get this chance again.”
Brent Eller, East Hamilton’s principal, is excited about his former baseball coach’s new role. “Steve is a man of value as a person with the added value of being a great coach,” he said.
Eller continued, “His ability to reach the students he has taught and coached is evident. He cares about them so much. Honestly, as a teacher or coach you are limited in the number of students you can touch, now he has the opportunity to reach 1500 students and brings so much to the table as a member of our administration. I am excited for his new role and I know he will add so much with his personal touch.”
Reflecting on his time with the baseball Canes, Garland said, ““Starting the East Hamilton Baseball program from scratch and building it, has been a labor of love. We came out of the gate strong with a nice first six seasons, in spite of not having a home facility for the first five seasons.”
East Hamilton opened in the fall of 2009, with no seniors on campus. The first baseball team took the field the spring of 2010 and enjoyed a 21-15 record, finishing second in District 6-AA and earning a berth in the Region 3-AA tournament.
The next nine seasons saw East Hamilton’s record climb to 218-140. Combined with a record of 247-171 at Soddy Daisy, Garland’s tally as a head coach stands at 465-311, a .599 winning percentage.
In his career he is the winningest coach with both the Trojans and the Hurricanes, taking both schools to the state tournament. Garland’s teams won two regular season championships and two district tournament titles. He was a District Coach of the Year nine times and won numerous TBCA awards.
Pehaps, though, his greatest accomplishment, was the fact that his programs at Soddy Daisy and East Hamilton saw 55 student-athletes move on to play at the collegiate level.
Garland also enjoyed a 26 year football coaching career as an assistant, serving mostly as a defensive coordinator. In the upcoming season, he was set to coach the Hurricane running backs.
The newly appointed Assistant Principal had this to say about his time on Hurricane Hill, “It has been an awesome run at East Hamilton! We’ve got great kids, including more than our fair share of talent, who played with passion and effort and gave of themselves on and off the field to build a competitive program. Additionally, we are blessed with a supportive community and parents who assist the program to provide a classy experience for the young men.”
He continued, “We’ve had a number of loyal, hard-working, dependable, and talented Assistant Coaches, including Brad Loy who has been on the coaching staff for the entire 11 years of East Hamilton Baseball’s existence. I will be forever indebted to all affiliated with East Hamilton High School, especially our leadership, including past and current Principals, Mrs. Pam Dantzler, Mrs. Gail Chuy, and current Principal, Mr. Brent Eller (who I will be joining his administrative team), who have allowed me to run the program as I saw fit.” “
And finally, he gave this thank you, “My loving and supportive wife, Kim, and precious daughter, Christin Grace, as well as my parents, my mother-in-law, and my brother have all been so understanding and helpful as I have lived out a dream spending so much time on the ball field. I am very humbled that the good Lord has allowed me to work with so many awesome young people and share my love of this great game with them.”
According to Mr. Eller, East Hamilton is in the early stages of their search for a new head baseball coach. “We know we have big shoes to fill and Steve will be a part of this process. We have heard from some pretty good candidates, but we’re just getting started.”
(Contact Assistant Sports Editor Dennis Norwood at email@example.com)