With the 2017-2018 school year closing in, several head coaches around the Bi-City area will soon get the chance to lead their teams for the first time. The big question is which hire was the best?
Below are nine new head coaches in the Bi-City and their backgrounds as they enter their new jobs:
Calvin Arnold, Carver: Arnold was promoted from the team’s defensive coordinator on Dec. 2. Arnold, who played for Charles Flowers at Shaw in the 1990s, has been a head coach in Columbus before, serving as Spencer’s head coach from 2012 to 2014. He amassed a 9-21 record during that time.
Blair Harrison, Brookstone: Harrison will begin his second stint as the head coach at Brookstone, where he was 73-29 with eight playoff appearances from 2003 to 2011. After leaving Brookstone, he spent time as the head football coach at Kingston (Tenn.), the head football coach at Towns County and the athletic director and head softball coach at St. Martin's Episcopal School in Metairie, La. He was Hardaway’s offensive coordinator in 2016.
Mark LeGree, Pacelli: The Pacelli alum was promoted from his defensive coordinator position after his first year of coaching. LeGree was a standout defensive back at Appalachian State, leading the Seattle Seahawks to draft him in the fifth round in 2011. He spent time with eight NFL teams over the next three years before playing two years for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.
Al Pellegrino, Shaw: Pellegrino is yet another defensive coordinator who has been promoted to head coach. Pellegrino joined the Shaw coaching staff before the 2016 season after spending one season as the head coach of Sycamore in Tenn. Over the course of his career, Pellegrino has been a head coach at Savannah, East Hall, Heritage-Conyers, Lake County (Tenn.) and Ripley (Tenn.). In his stops at Georgia schools, he has a record of 32-41.
Anzy Hardman, Manchester: Hardman has accomplished a great deal in 40 seasons as a head coach, highlighted by six state championships and more than 700 career victories. Hardman, who was most recently the head coach at Taylor County, spent one year away from the game before deciding to return to Manchester, where he was head coach from 1990 to 1995.
Kelly Ellison, Hardaway: Ellison returns to her alma mater after spending two seasons as an assistant at Carver, which culminated in a state championship game appearance. After setting Hardaway school records for assists and steals, Ellison played collegiately at Stetson University and Shorter. She then became an assistant at Shorter in 2013.
Pamela Smith, Spencer: Smith, who played collegiately at Auburn, comes to Spencer after coaching at South Girard in Phenix City for 20 years, 13 as head coach. She also has spent several years around Carolyn Wright and the Central Lady Red Devils program, which includes serving as an assistant in an official capacity the last two years.
Brent Benefield, Pacelli: Another Hardaway alum, Benefield takes over the Vikings program after coaching with 5 Star National, a travel baseball program based in Warner Robins. He has been a baseball instructor for players ages 8-22 since 2007 and has spent his summers managing travel teams. An All-Bi-City Baseball Player of the Year in 2002, Benefield played collegiately at Georgia, Middle Georgia College and Columbus State.
AJ Kehoe, Central: Kehoe was promoted from Central pitching coach and brings a wealth of coaching experience, having previously been head coach at Beauregard, Pacelli and Glenwood. He spent nine seasons at Beauregard, during which time the Hornets won four region titles and played in the 2012 Class 4A championship series. He was named the 2006 Region Coach of the Year by the Georgia Athletic Association, the 2009 5A Coach of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association and the 2012 Coach of the Year by Auburn-Opelika News.
Answer our poll: Which of these nine hires was the best?