CHURCH HILL – Justin Pressley has announced he is resigning as Volunteer head football coach to take the head coaching position at Carter High School in Knoxville.
“It’s just an opportunity to be close to my family,” Pressley said Thursday morning. “My dad lives nearby and my brother lives in Knoxville. My wife’s family lives close. It’s just a chance for us to be in a place where we can see our family every day if we want to and it’s a good opportunity for us.”
“He had informed me he had been approached by them,” said Volunteer Athletic Director Jim Whalen. “I told him if he thought it was a better fit for his family I would support him. He told me about how much more money they were offering. If you’re looking at $16,000 more per year, I mean it’s just tough to compete with that kind of money.
“His brother lives in Strawberry Plains. His dad lives in Rockwood, so it’s closer to there. His wife is from Cleveland, Tenn., so it gets them an hour and a half closer to her family,” Whalen said.
Pressley is expected to leave within the next two or three weeks. The job vacancy has been posted. Defensive Coordinator Jesse McMillan has been named interim coach.
“We’ve made some internal changes to get over the hump right now,” Whalen said. “We’ve named Jesse McMillan as our interim coach. Jesse was our defensive coordinator and he’s going to be our interim coach. We’re moving one of our coaches into the field house from gym for P.E. to take over in the field house, to keep the weights going, Jeremy Sommers.
“We don’t look to be losing any other coaches. We’ll just have to see where it goes. I expect Jesse to apply and expect a pretty good pull to apply. We’ll post it for about 10 days and see what we get. I don’t want to state a date, I just want to find the right person. Having someone in place in February would be great,” Whalen said.
When schools have such openings, their teaching vacancy is a priority to fill, as well. Since Pressley was a physical education teacher, it will be easier to fill along with the head coaching position.
“His position is going to give us a lot of leeway right now,” Whalen said. “Chemistry or foreign language is a little bit tough to fill. But P.E. gives us a lot of room.”
A Kingston, Tenn. native, Pressley leaves after just two seasons. The Falcons were 0-10 in 2017, the year before Pressley arrived after spending the three previous seasons as head coach at Lindblom Academy in Chicago. Before that, Pressley was at Pearl-Cohn in Nashville for a year, following a few seasons at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro.
Under Pressley, the Falcons went 3-8 in 2018 and 4-6 this season, including victories on the road in their last two games: 40-28 at Unicoi and 35-12 at Cocke County. Pressley’s fast-break offense, aggressive defense and positive attitude appealed to Falcon players.
“We talked about next year,” Whalen said. “We felt like it was going to be our year. With the group of kids that he’s had, the third year was going to be the year that we were looking at really trying to get over the hump.
“I said, ‘Give us one more year and you’re going to get a lot bigger schools.’ I understand what we’re dealing with our pay and wanting to move up. He just thought that this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up and didn’t think it would be there next year,” Whalen said.
“He’s leaving on good terms with us. He and I are friends. It’s just tough. I hate it for the kids. He’s a very likable coach. Kids get along with him. They like him and they liked his up-tempo style, trying to play fast. It was new for us and exciting for the kids,” Whalen said.
Pressley said he enjoyed his two seasons in Church Hill.
“My time has been amazing here at Volunteer,” Pressley said. “The kids are committed and we’ve worked really hard to build something that was special. I’m very thankful for Jim Whalen for giving me the opportunity to be here. He brought me back to Tennessee and I’ve grateful for that. The administration has been amazing to me in this process.
“The kids are very important to me. They’re going to hold a special place in my heart and my family’s heart for a long time. We’ve loved our time here. The timing was just right to leave. They’re going to be good in the future. We’ve done something special the past two years. They’ve got great coaches on the staff right now. The future of Volunteer High School is going to go on and get better,” Pressley said.
Pressley was asked about the challenge of coaching football at Volunteer.
“It’s just building excitement and we did that,” Pressley said. “We had no problem getting the community excited. We had two exciting years. We brought in a different, fast-paced offense that got everybody excited.
“Anybody who looks at this job now and wants this job now, I think it’s going to be a very attractive position. Because we were very young for two years – we started sophomores and freshmen for both my years here – now those guys are going to be juniors and seniors. I look at them to be sustainably successful,” Pressley said.
“The challenges coming in was just trying to build excitement and that didn’t take very long. They were hungry to be excited about something. We did that. Everyone’s been great in the process,” Pressley said.
While Pressley is looking forward to his next challenge, he has well-wishes for those he’s leaving behind.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to be close to family,” Pressley said. “I’m very grateful for the kids and I just want to make sure the kids are done right and make sure they continue their success and they will. They’ve got great kids here and they’re going to be successful in anything they do.”