In the end, however, the school found its man right in its own back yard.
John East, the former athletic director and a coach of multiple sports at Whitefield Academy, was named the Wolverines’ new football coach Wednesday.
East, who will also serve as an assistant athletic director at Walker, as well as an assistant coach on the school’s new junior varsity lacrosse team, replaces Ben Williamson, who stepped down in November after four years at the helm.
“I’m so excited to have this opportunity,” East said. “I had some (athletic director) opportunities, and some other football opportunities, but Walker was absolutely the best opportunity for me. It’s a tremendous school with tremendous people, and I can’t wait to get started.”
East was the choice of a nine-person search committee that represented by a number of groups from the Walker School community. The school received around 160 resumes from all across the nation for the position.
“I’m extremely excited about John joining our staff,” athletic director Gary Blohm said. “The most important thing about John is that he is a man of integrity. It was important to have somebody to run the program that has the kids’ best interest at heart, and John is that man. He brings so many things to the program. He’s a builder and not a maintainer. He is going to build such an excitement for the program that a number of kids will want to be a part of the program. John has a strong passion for football and he brings a wealth of knowledge. He will bring a balance to the program.
East also brings plenty of experience to the job, with 36 years in coaching. He coached high school football in New Orleans and at the Lovett School in Atlanta. He has also coached a number of other sports on the high school level.
East’s most recent stop was at Whitefield, where he spent seven years as the athletic director before stepping down following the 2010-11 school year. In his time with the Wolfpack’s athletic program, East never coached the football team, but he did coach a variety of other sports there, including wrestling, volleyball, lacrosse, golf and track and field.
East is inheriting a Walker team that has experienced three consecutive 3-7 seasons and hasn’t had a winning season since a 6-4 mark in 2006.
For East, building the Wolverines’ program is the top priority.
“I look at this as a complete program,” he said. “Varsity, JV, middle school — it’s all part of the same program. I have plenty of experience building programs. I’ve coached a lot of sports, but football is my passion and I look forward to building a strong program at Walker.”
East said he will be flexible on offense and defense, running multiple formations on both sides of the ball.
“On offense, we’re going to run and pass the ball,” East said. “On defense, I don’t want to get locked in (on one formation). It will depend on the other team and what they will do. We will be aggressive. We’re going to go at it hard.”
East’s first Walker team will be joined in a reconfigured Region 6A by his employer-turned-rival Whitefield, as well as fellow county rivals Mount Paran Christian and North Cobb Christian.
East will step on the field for the first time as Walker’s coach when the Wolverines’ host Landmark Christian for a preseason scrimmage Aug. 17. The Wolverines will then host Temple in their regular-season opener a week later.
Taking it one game at a time will be East’s approach in his first year at the Walker helm.
“I would love to win region, not so much for the trophy, but so we can play our first two state playoff games at home,” East said. “That would be the most important thing — playing our first two state playoff games at home. Other than that, the most important thing for me is simply to win the next game. I just want to focus on the game at hand and take it week by week.”