Wilhite to join staff at Lenoir City High

By Ryan Callahan
of The Daily Times Staff

Richie Wilhite believes he would have been invited to stay for his fourth season as a member of the William Blount High School football team's coaching staff.

The chance to pursue other options during the offseason was just too tempting.

Wilhite, who served as WB's interim coach last season, confirmed Tuesday that he has reached an agreement to become the new defensive coordinator at District 4-AAA rival Lenoir City.

Governors coach Scott Meadows announced in November his official return from a nearly seven-month leave of absence to take back the reins from Wilhite, who led William Blount to a 1-9 record last year.

That marked the start of what Wilhite described as "some staff issues" that prompted him to put his name in the mix for the opening with the Panthers.

Wilhite, who will remain as WB's baseball coach and a full-time teacher at the school, cited the opportunity to work closer to his home in Lenoir City as a reason for leaving.

It clearly wasn't the only one, though.

"There were some other influences as far as the (coaching) changeover. I'll say it wasn't necessarily as smooth as you might like. I'll say that to be nice about it," said Wilhite, the Region 2-5A defensive coordinator of the year in 2006 and 2007 at William Blount under Meadows.

"It was time to move on and take my career and see what other things I could try to accomplish."

Multiple attempts to contact Meadows for comment Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

"Scott and I had talked on several different occasions once he announced he was coming back, and there were some staff issues," Wilhite said. "It was probably in my best interest, for me and my career, if I would find a new challenge."

Wilhite, previously an assistant under Meadows at Jefferson County, wasted no time finding one at Lenoir City, where he will get to play against the Govs every year in the newly aligned District 4-AAA.

"They actually had a need," Wilhite said of the Panthers, who went 1-9 last season under first-year coach Mike Zeller. "They were looking for a defensive coordinator, and that's what I had done in the past before my interim coaching job.

"It looks like a really good situation."

Wilhite's stay at William Blount -- on the football field, anyway -- might not have ended the way he had hoped, but it wasn't all bad.

"It was a great experience on a lot of levels. It kind of taught me a little more about how to handle myself and try to handle other people that are under me or that I'm in contact with," Wilhite said of his season as interim coach.

"I definitely want the opportunity, if I get the chance, to be a head coach again. But if not, I would have no problem continuing to work for someone else."