For the past three seasons, Danny Wilson said he had been "completely content" as the defensive coordinator on head coach Caleb Bagley's football staff at Coahulla Creek High School.
Wilson had been a head football coach before at two high schools — winning a state football championship with South Pittsburg (Tennessee) in 1994 — and coached football at some level during 32 of his 33 years in education. But after Bagley stepped down last month to spend more time with his family, being a head football coach began to appeal to Wilson again — especially since the school was Coahulla Creek.
"He's the reason I came here to begin with, the way he does things and the culture he has established," Wilson said. "I would have been fine. In fact, I've turned down positions over the past couple of years to stay here. I understand why he did what he did and support him in every way. I didn't think I'd jump back in it this soon, but I'm ready to go and excited about it."
Wilson was introduced Tuesday as Coahulla Creek's next head football coach, providing continuity to the program as it looks to improve on a 2-8 season in 2019, Coahulla Creek Principal Tracy Mardis said.
"It will be a great transition for him," Mardis said. "He'll be able to continue to do the work that we've been about. He's one of the best coaches I've ever seen as far as football. And he's a good dude. He's a good teacher and a good guy."
Mardis said the school system received 40 to 45 applications for the position. Once Wilson decided to apply, Mardis said, "He was definitely the one I wanted." On top of Wilson's ties to Coahulla Creek, his coaching experience and résumé stood out, Mardis said. In addition to 14 years as a head football coach, Wilson won a baseball state championship at South Pittsburg in 1996 as the team's head coach and was the defensive coordinator for the school's 2010 state football championship.
Wins have been scare for the Colts. Since Coahulla Creek's first full season in the Georgia High School Association in 2012, the program's record is 9-71. In three of those seasons, teams went 0-10.
Bagley led the Colts for the past three seasons, finishing with a record of 3-27. Despite the lack of wins, Bagley went from from zero wins (2017) to one win (2018) to two wins (2019). The team had victories over Ringgold and Southeast Whitfield this past season.
Wilson said Bagley and his staff have improved the program's direction at the Class 3A school.
"I don't think, especially as a coach, that wins are everywhere you want them to be," Wilson said. "I've won state championships and regions and all of those things, and I don't ever remember being completely satisfied. Those wins — obviously everybody wants to win more — but the strides the program has made over the past three years, the majority of that credit goes to coach Bagley. He has done a tremendous job of changing the culture of the football program here at Coahulla."
Bagley said Wilson is the right hire. Although Bagley is no longer a part of the Colts football team, he is looking forward to the program's future.
"I'm excited to see him take it over, I really am," Bagley said. "Sometimes people leave these jobs and want to see it drop off a little bit to make you look better or something like that. I want to see it go to the next level. I don't want these last three years of hard work that we've put in to be for nothing. I think it's on the right track. Our numbers are up, we've been more competitive. We've got a program established now. You don't ever want that to go to waste."
In 2017, Wilson was the first person Bagley hired for his staff. After Bagley was hired as the head coach, he received a number of applications and résumés because when there's a head coaching change, assistant coaching positions usually become open.
"Just going through résumés one day, clicked on his and thought 'Holy cow!'" Bagley said. "This guy. What's his interest?"
Bagley spoke to his contacts in Tennessee about Wilson, then met with him.
"Honestly, I didn't think we had a real good shot at getting him, just with his experience level and that kind of deal," Bagley said. "But we hit it off real well. He's been fantastic for me the past three years. He's been a constant source of information. He's never pushed me in one direction, he kind of let me learn stuff on my own and do things my way, but he was always there to offer advice."
Wilson, who teaches environmental science, said the faculty, staff and students at Coahulla Creek played a large role in his interest in being the head football coach.
"It's a great place," Wilson said.
When asked what changes he plans to make, Wilson said players dictate what offensive and defensive systems a team can run, adding that he's "ahead of the game" by already being at the school.
"I've always felt that you've got to build your scheme around the talent level you have," Wilson said. "We'll be evaluating as a staff over the next couple of months to decide exactly what we want to do as a staff, offensively, defensively and special teams."
Wilson retired from teaching in Tennessee in 2017. He has a bachelor's degree in biology education from David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a master's degree in education from Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee.
He began his teaching and coaching career in August 1987 at South Pittsburg High School, where he had several roles: science teacher, athletics director, principal and head coach of three sports (baseball, girls basketball and football).
In 1997, he moved to Heritage High School in Maryville, Tennessee, where he was the head football coach. After a stint at Cleveland High School in Tennessee, Wilson returned to South Pittsburg in August 2009 where he taught and coached, and was principal from June 2013 to June 2017.