Manatee High hopes to hire new football coach by week's end

jlembo@bradenton.comJuly 1, 2014 

TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/ Manatee High head football coach Joe Kinnan addresses a crowd from the podium as the Manatee County Commissioners declared January 10 "Manatee High School Pride Day."


BRADENTON -- The search for Manatee High's new football coach may come to an end this week.

And it appears it is between seven candidates.

Jason Montgomery, Manatee's athletic director, said Monday that Valrico Bloomingdale head coach John Booth, a Manatee alum, and longtime Alabama prep coach Bart Sessions are also in the running.

They join a field that includes Hurricanes assistant coaches Chad Choate, Chris Conboy, Jim Phelan and Chuck Sandberg; and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas co-offensive coordinator Jason Milgrom.

Kevin Wallace, the head coach at Bowling Green High in Kentucky, withdrew his name Monday morning, Montgomery said, who added that everyone but Sessions has been interviewed.

"I think that's about it," Montgomery said. "We hope to wrap it up and have a decision made by the end of the week. We're six weeks out (from fall practice). Whomever we hire, especially if it's someone from the outside, needs to get here and get everyone in place. Even if it's someone from the inside, they also need to get everyone in place."

Joe Kinnan, who coached Manatee to five state titles and 290 wins, announced less than two weeks ago he was taking a medical leave of absence for the 2014 season. But he also told Montgomery "you do what you have to do," and didn't know if he would return.

Consequently, Montgomery said the new coach will not wear an interim tag.

"Everybody we talked to, we made it real clear we're not looking for an interim -- we're hiring somebody to be our coach," he said. "There have been no mixed signals from our end. We're looking for a long-term solution."

Booth has compiled a 12-28 record in four seasons at Bloomingdale, but went 6-4 last fall after going 0-10 during his first year. Booth earned All-America honors playing quarterback at MidAmerica Nazarene, a NAIA in Kansas, before making the switch to wide receiver. He signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs and helped the Amsterdam Admirals win NFL Europe's World Bowl XIII in 2005 by totaling 103 receiving yards.

Booth also played in the Arena Football League.

Sessions won 35 games in three seasons at McGill-Toolen Catholic in Alabama before stepping down about two weeks before Kinnan made his announcement.

"At this time ... I have decided to pursue other coaching opportunities," Sessions said in a news release, according to story on, The Birmingham News' website.

Sessions made his mark in Alabama as a defensive coordinator, winning state titles with Daphne in 2010 and Pratville in 2008 and '09 while serving in that role. He was also the defensive coordinator at Alabama's Davidson High from 2000-07.

Sandberg has been on the staff the longest of Manatee's four in-house candidates, having just wrapped his 28th season. He coaches the Hurricanes' wide receivers.

Phelan, Manaatee's defensive coordinator who was the interim coach this spring, has coached prep football for 33 years, including 17 at Manatee. Conboy, the quarterbacks coach, is a Cardinal Mooney graduate who just completed his 15th year with the Hurricanes.

Choate joins Booth as the only Manatee alums vying for the job. Currently the linebackers coach, Choate graduated from Manatee in 2003.

Manatee opens the regular season Aug. 29 in Georgia against Ware County.

"Football is going to continue to be strong at Manatee," Montgomery said. "We're going to continue and build on what Joe has done. And that's what we're looking forward to."

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