Originally created 01/17/97

Wildcats coaching job draws interest

Interest in the Laney head football coaching vacancy should be no surprise. Many area coaches have said the Wildcats are another Josey waiting to happen.

"They had as much, if not more, talent on the field than Josey did this year," said a Region 3-AAA head coach. "They just haven't been a very sound football team, but that could be a top-rate program with the right coach."

With the final day of interviews scheduled for Thursday, the man to replace Otis Smart at Laney is expected to be East Augusta Middle School coach James Draine, a source close to the Laney athletic department said Thursday.

Richmond County athletic director Wayne Wiggins would not reveal candidates, but said one of the four finalists currently coaches in Richmond County.

Laney principal Rush Utley and athletic director Norman Bonner, Wiggins added, could name Smart's successor as early as today, but a decision likely would not be reached before the weekend.

Smart resigned in December after three seasons and a 9-21 record.

The 45-year-old's legal troubles - Smart was charged but later acquitted of sexual battery, linked to a former girls basketball player - carried over to the playing field. Despite a talented group of returning players from Laney's 5-5 team in 1995, the Wildcats finished 1-9.

"They had the talent to be a playoff team," the source said. "If they had someone like John Starr coaching that team, they'd be a power. I think (Draine) could be the one to do it."

Starr took over a Josey program in 1992 that had an 8-22 record the previous three seasons and had not made the playoffs since 1983. After a 4-6 debut, the Eagles finished 9-4 in 1994, were Class AAA champs with a 15-0 mark in 1995, and 11-2 this season - 39-12 overall and three state playoff appearances.


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