Successful Coach Finds New Challenge with Struggling Program

John Starr sees a struggling football with a coaching vacancy as an opportunity. He took on his latest reclamation project last fall when he accepted the head coaching position at Howard High (Tenn.).

If Starr is leading a program that is clicking on all cylinders, he gets antsy. That happened at Josey High (Ga.) – Starr’s first head coaching gig – in the 1990s. He took over a program in that had just three winning seasons in the previous 30 years. He guided Josey to the 1995 Class AAA state championship before leaving a few years later.

He then took over a Chattooga (Ga.) program that had appeared in the playoffs four times in the previous 20 seasons and promptly took the squad to six playoff trips in a span of eight seasons.

He spent 2010 to 2015 building a perennial contender at Salem High in Conyers, Ga., before accepting the position at Howard High.

“It wasn’t the challenge I needed to keep me excited,” Starr said. “At that point in time, I put it on autopilot. The kids were working hard and doing what they were supposed to do. I was just keeping it afloat.”

Starr is more attracted to positions in which he feels he’s rescuing a sinking ship. In Howard, he found a school that had won just five games in the previous five seasons – but also a school with a rich tradition. Former NFL players Reggie White and Terdell Sands are among an impressive collection of Howard alumni.

Howard popped up on Starr’s radar when he was visiting friends in Tennessee in 2015.

“I heard they only won five games over five years, and I thought this school is better than that,” Starr said. “It’s Howard – Reggie White and Terdell Sands played there. They deserve better.”

Starr led Howard to five wins last season, equaling the total from the five previous seasons. The Highlanders also earned a trip to the playoffs.

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