Tuesday, March 21, 2023

North Bay Haven Has Hired John Pate, a Former Hilliard Coach

North Bay Haven Has Hired John Pate, a Former Hilliard Coach

When looking for a new head football coach to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Andy Siegal, North Bay Haven was searching for someone with experience, a track record of success, and a coach with a history of program building. 

The Buccaneers get all three with former Hilliard coach John Pate, whose hiring was announced by the school on Thursday afternoon. 

Pate has coached at both the high school and college levels for the better part of four decades, spending 14 seasons as an assistant at Georgia Southern with two prep coaching stints in Georgia and another in North Carolina before settling in Florida for the past seven years. 

In that time Pate has worked as a defensive coordinator at Yulee and as a head coach at Fernandina Beach for two years and for the past four at Hilliard where he led the Red Flashes to a 27-15 record, including a 24-8 mark over the past three years that included three straight playoff appearances. 

It was an impressive run at a program that had suffered four straight losing seasons before Pate arrived. Now he’ll try to work some of that same magic with the Buccaneers, who have just one winning season to their name over the course of their short 10-year history. 

“Well, I like challenges,” Pate said Thursday of taking on the North Bay Haven job. “I like to build (programs). I just came off four years at one that was basically on life support when I got there … I looked at North Bay Haven and I’m very famiiar with the Panhandle. I used to recruit this area when I was at Georgia Southern. I’ve been to the Panhandle lots of times and I’ve always loved the area. I look at it more and more as a great opportunity to come to an outstanding academic school, but at the same time have a chance to put my mark on building another one.”

North Bay Haven athletic director Dustin Rennspies said that Pate’s success at Hilliard in building up a program that had just 17 varsity players on the roster when he arrived to one with 49 by the time he departed was a big selling point to the search committee and principal Mike McLaughlin. 

“I would say we are in a unique position compared to the other schools around the county because obviously we’re a charter so we deal with a lottery system and with being a K-12 school and a smaller school, so you have to have an idea I think of how to grow a program with the numbers that you do have in the school,” he said. “His experience in the past dealing with that type of situation with a (sixth-through-12th grade) situation and knowing how to grow the numbers into the program, that’s something that was obviously an attractive attribute for us.” 

Despite Pate’s success at Hilliard, he was relieved of his duties back in February. Pate said it was a “difference in philosophies” with the school administration when it came to running a football program that was responsible for the parting of ways. 

The situation made it so that finding a principal and athletic director who shared his vision on the matter a high priority in determining his next stop. Pate said he believes he has found that at North Bay Haven. 

“I was very impressed with the AD and principal, they’re good, solid men that want to be good in all sports and every single thing that the boys and girls do,” he said. “I wanted to work with an administration that wants to do it the right way as much as I want to do it the right way. I think you can win there. I don’t know how fast we can do it. If you want to turn a place around and win you’re gonna need a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, but I think we can do it.”