Jon Smith has been a football coach for 19 years, but in that time the defensive guru never had been given an opportunity to take the reins of a program. He’ll finally get that chance in year 20.
Tates Creek High School introduced Smith as its new head football coach in front of students, faculty and staff during a press conference on Wednesday. He became only the sixth head coach in the history of the school, which opened in 1965.
Smith succeeded Antoine Sims, who resigned from the job after four seasons because he was named a sergeant at Bryan Station High School by Fayette County Public Schools Law Enforcement. The responsibilities of that post prevented Sims from continuing to coach football.
Tates Creek Athletic Director John Dixon said the school wanted a coach who could foster positive relationships with players, provide “instant leadership” and understood the culture and tradition at Tates Creek. Smith, who was a defensive coordinator under Sims the last two seasons, checked every box the program had in mind.
“I’m proud and privileged and I’m excited and I’m ready to get to work, and I hope you guys are too,” Smith said.
Smith, a Western Kentucky University and Campbellsville University graduate, got his coaching start at Daviess County, where he helped coach the Panthers to their third playoff win in school history. He was the defensive coordinator at Warren East from 2005-2011, during which the program made its first state semifinals appearance and ranked among the top defenses in its class. He became the defensive coordinator at West Jessamine in 2011, coached linebackers at Tates Creek in 2012, and was the defensive coordinator at Paul Laurence Dunbar from 2013-15 under Paul Rains.
Tates Creek last season finished 9-3 – its best record since finishing 10-4 in 2001 – and was third among Class 6A teams in points allowed (Trinity and Male, who have combined to win the last four Class 6A championships, were first and second).
Smith said he hopes to keep intact most of the staff currently at Tates Creek and wants to help the Commodores sustain and build upon the success they had under Sims.
“For two years we’ve won in the first round of the playoffs and I think that next step is winning that second-round game,” Smith said.
It crossed Smith’s mind that maybe he would never get the chance to lead a football program, and he looks forward to living up to the expectations of a program that few men have gotten to call their own now that he’s been given a shot.
“I can’t find a better place to be than here at Tates Creek with the tradition,” Smith said. “ … Not very often do you get your first job being at a 6A school in Lexington, Kentucky, as a head coach. I feel honored and blessed.”