Munford has its man, and administrators didn't have to look too far to find him.
J.R. Kirby, a former assistant at Covington High School, was hired as Munford's head football coach Jan. 9.
Kirby was an assistant on Covington teams in the mid-2000s that made deep playoff runs and was also on staff when the Chargers made runs to the state semifinals in 2011 and the state title game in 2012.
After stops at Ripley and Haywood, he rejoined the Covington coaching staff in 2010 after three straight two-win seasons and was in the middle of the program's resurgence.
Kirby, 31, believes that experience will serve him well at Munford, which is coming off a 2-8 season.
“Being a part of that and seeing it turn around was big,” Kirby said. “I know what it looks like to go from not being very good to playing for a state championship. I know the work you have to put in. Talent always helps, but there were a lot of kids who worked their butt off.”
Kirby was an assistant coach at Crockett County last season and is still teaching there. He leaves Alamo every afternoon and comes to Munford to oversee the program, meet with players and organize conditioning sessions.
Kirby interviewed for the Munford head coaching job last spring. Ahmaad Galloway got the job. Galloway was suspended for inappropriate conduct after a Week 4 game against Dyer County and resigned weeks later.
The Cougars lost six of their final seven games and missed the playoffs.
But Kirby believes there are plenty of things to like about the job.
“They have been down,” Kirby said. “That's why the job is open … I think it's a hidden gem. I think you can win there with the right system. We expect big things and we expect to win there.”
Like any new coach, he has plans to make some changes.
“It's going to start in the weight room,” Kirby said. “I don't know if they've ever had a consistent weight program there. We're going to try and change the mindset. Change the culture. I don't think they've been very physical. They've been pretty finesse in the past. We're going to be a hard-nosed football team.”
Munford and Covington will play one another next August. Kirby still has friends there, but he said it will be all business.
“I've thought about that,” Kirby said. “There's no doubt we want to beat them, but it will be emotional. People change, things change and time moves on. But no doubt about it, that first game in August we're going to want to beat them as bad as they want to beat us.”