Motsinger resigns at JK, heads to New Hanover
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 16, 2006 2:48 PM
WARSAW -- Ronnie Batts figured this day come.
Only he didn't expect it so soon.
Batts regretfully accepted Kevin Motsinger's shocking resignation as head football coach at James Kenan on Wednesday morning. A native of Alabama, the 33-year-old Motsinger officially took over head coaching duties at Wilmington New Hanover on Tuesday.
Motsinger replaces John Fitz, who left in January for an assistant coach position at Catawba College.
"I hate to lose him," said Batts, the school's athletics director. "Kevin has done a fantastic job for us. He was tremendous for the kids and the school. He put James Kenan on the map with football.
"He's a young man with a lot of ambition and a good football coach with a good mind. It's an opportunity for him that he couldn't turn down, and he's doing it for the right reasons."
Motsinger resurrected the James Kenan program, which endured a 1-10 season before his arrival. He guided the Tigers to 24 victories and three playoff appearances during his three-year stay.
"This is the hardest decision I've ever had to make, and that's the honest truth," said Motsinger, who becomes New Hanover's sixth new coach in the past 12 seasons. "These kids ... I love them. The next group coming up would have been my first senior class."
Motsinger inherits a program that's experienced its fair share of problems.
Fitz and assistant coach Earl Smith guided the Wildcats to a 5-5 record last fall and an appearance in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 4-AA (large school) playoffs. New Hanover lost its opening-round game at Cary.
The school's last winning season occurred in 1994 when Motsinger was a junior in college. The Wildcats fashioned a 9-3 record that year, but dipped to 4-6 the following fall. The losing trend continued as New Hanover teams combined for a miserable 2-47 record, including a 29-game losing streak, over the next five seasons.
"When I first came to eastern North Carolina, there were two jobs I thought were my dream jobs. One was New Hanover and the second was New Bern," said Motsinger. "This is a great, great opportunity, but it's still very hard, very tough decision. It's a dream come true, but this end of it (leaving James Kenan) is sad.
"The kids have given me everything they've got."
Motsinger abandoned the run-oriented offense and installed a no-huddle scheme that caused opponents headaches every Friday night. The Tigers finished 5-7 and reached the second round of the NCHSAA 1-AA (large school) playoffs in Motsinger's first season.
James Kenan posted 10 wins -- the most since 1998 -- and finished second in the bruising Super Six Conference behind archrival Wallace-Rose Hill in 2004. The Tigers compiled a 9-4 mark last fall and again finished second in the conference.
Motsinger's all-time playoff record is 3-3.
"I've made some good friends and that will never change," said Motsinger. "The way I feel about these kids will never change because they're my young-uns. I am going to do anything in my power to help these kids out.
"They're upset and hurt, and I understand. Like I tell them all the time, you have to do what is best for you and your family."
Batts said he isn't sure what procedure the administration will follow to replace Motsinger. He speculated an "in-house" search will be conducted and that the opening will be advertised statewide.
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