With Georgia on his mind, Nature Coast coach leaves

Published May 22, 2007

Once again, Travis Priddy is going to Savannah, and once again, a Hernando County school is looking for a boys basketball coach.

Priddy, who led Nature Coast to its first state playoff berth this season, told his team Saturday he had accepted the head coaching job at Savannah Ga. Country Day, making the Sharks the latest county team with a position to fill.

"I won't say they were shocked, " Priddy said Monday as he sat on the bleachers in the school's gymnasium. "There were some rumblings. They were sad to see me go, but it's not one of those things where they were mad at me."

Priddy, 33, took over the Nature Coast program in 2004 and quickly went to work on what was then a second-year program that had won just five games in its inaugural season. The Sharks struggled at first, losing 17 games in 2004-05, but posted winning records the past two seasons. This past season, Nature Coast finished the regular season 17-5 and qualified for the state playoffs as the Class 4A, District 8 runnerup.

But Priddy has been entertaining offers since the end of the season. A mixup with his certification forced him to spend the first semester of the school year as a full-time substitute, instead of a full-time teacher, which he said hurt his finances.

Priddy said his salary at Savannah Country Day will be $15, 000 more than he was making at Nature Coast. But he also emphasized the move wasn't entirely about money. A West Virginia native, Priddy spent two years as an assistant coach at Armstrong Atlantic in Savannah and said he considers the city a second home.

In addition, he'll be in complete control of the basketball program from middle school through high school, meaning he can develop talent before it reaches the varsity level. In Hernando County, coaches do not have control over middle school programs because seventh and eighth graders matriculate to different high schools.

"You can't ask for a better situation for me, " Priddy said.

The same can't be said for Nature Coast athletic director Jason Montgomery, who now is the third county AD looking for a boys basketball coach.

Hernando's Jeff Laing stepped down this spring after six seasons. The Leopards are close to naming a new coach. The finalists are Tim Ellis, a coach from Georgia; William Meyer, a coach from New Jersey; and Anthony Vazquez, a former Hernando player. Vazquez is the frontrunner.

Springstead coach Craig Swartout resigned a couple weeks ago despite leading the Eagles to back-to-back district titles.

Central coach Eric Hayes, who just completed his first season, is now the dean of Hernando County coaches.

Montgomery said he hopes to finish the interview process by the end of next week. He also said he understood Priddy's reasons for leaving.

"He did an incredible job with what he had, " Montgomery said.

Nature Coast is also looking for a swimming coach and a cross country coach.

David Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1407.