By Devin Golden
Jeff McKinney coached two varsity teams this past school year at Dalton High.
Next year, he’ll play a role in all the school’s sports.
McKinney, who has been a coach at the school since 2001, was named athletic director and assistant principal at Dalton on Thursday. He will begin the new position on July 1, according to a release from Dalton Public Schools. His yearly salary will be $82,500, said Pat Holloway, director of communications for Dalton Public Schools.
McKinney replaces Ron Ward, who will become an associate principal at the school on July 1 after serving the past three seasons as athletic director and an assistant principal.
McKinney called the school’s athletic department “one of the best around” and said he has wanted to return to an administrative role for some time.
“When the position came open, it was one of those things where I felt I’d be a great fit for it,” he said. “I’ve had a good relationship with all of our coaches. ... An administrator/athletic director-type position is where I see myself now in my career.”
McKinney, a math teacher this past school year, has coached the varsity girls basketball team for the past 12 seasons and was the varsity softball coach in 2012 after working as an assistant the previous three seasons under Bob Brotherton. He believes his wide-ranging experience in many sports will offer balance. He has 21 years of education experience and previously worked in administration at Rossville Middle School.
Mike Duffie, Dalton’s boys basketball coach since 2006, agrees that McKinney’s experience coaching other sports will help.
“Jeff has coached in different sports, schools and districts,” Duffie said. “You want fair people, and I think we’ve always had that at Dalton. Ron (Ward) did a good job, and coach (Ronnie) McClurg always was good to me. I think (Jeff) will be fair to everybody.”
Dalton boys soccer coach Matt Cheaves, who has been at the school since 1995, also supported the choice.
“He’s the kind of guy who, when you need someone to stand behind you, he’ll be there,” Cheaves said.
McKinney doesn’t plan to remain the girls basketball coach next season. His tenure was a successful one — the Lady Catamounts reached the state tournament in 10 of his 12 seasons, including reaching the Class 3A state title game in 2011.
He resigned as softball coach after this past season ended, and Stacy Parker became the program’s coach.
McKinney said the reason he won’t remain girls basketball coach is “it’s understood (at Dalton) that administrators don’t coach,” which was in reference to the assistant principal side of his job. He still has an attachment to the program, though.
“It’s very important to me just because I’ve spent a lot of time in it,” he said. “We’ll have to aggressively search for someone to fill that spot. I will continue through the summer with them, but that is definitely a high priority as far as being filled.”
The athletic director/assistant principal position was opened only to internal candidates, Holloway said. The requirements included an administration degree and three years of head coaching experience, McKinney said.
“We are fortunate to get someone with Jeff’s background to serve as athletic director and assistant principal,” Steve Bartoo, who will become Dalton’s principal on July 1, stated in the press release. Bartoo was unavailable for additional comments.
Holloway said interviews were conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, but she did not know whether a committee was used in the process.
McKinney has a specialist’s degree in education from Lincoln Memorial University and a master’s degree in educational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from the University of Mississippi.
McKinney’s wife, Missie, is Dalton Middle School’s athletic director. Their daughter, Chandler, graduated from Dalton High in 2012 after four years of playing basketball and softball. Their son, Jordon, will be a sophomore next year at Dalton High and participates in football, basketball and track and field.