“Tupelo is the largest city in Northeast Mississippi, kind of the premier town. Everybody always comes to Tupelo,” Hammond said. “A lot of football coaches said, ‘Hey, we want to be a part of that, too,’ and I was one of them.”
Hammond, 45, was unanimously approved at a specially called board meeting, met with players, then introduced to players and students at an afternoon press conference. He and his family – wife Kim, fifth-grade son Hayes and freshman daughter Maddie – were introduced by Tupelo mayor Jack Reed and THS principal Jason Harris.
Hammond has been head coach and athletic director at Class 4A Amory the past three seasons.
He replaced David Bradberry, who retired last month. Bradberry went 17-17 and made the 6A playoffs in two of his three seasons.
Tupelo superintendent Gearl Loden appointed a four-person search committee. Loden was Amory’s superintendent when Hammond came to North Mississippi three years ago.
“He’s a competitor. He’s good at attracting young people into the program,” Loden said. “You’ll have your soccer, basketball and baseball guys excited about playing football, too. With 2,100 students, we feel like if we share our athletes across the sports, we can do well.”
The month-long search was the subject of much speculation yet was largely quiet until after lunch on Wednesday.
Loden said there were nine formal interviews.
“We had a high level of interest in the job. That’s exciting,” Loden told the Journal earlier this week.
Record of success
Amory went 26-13 during Hammond’s tenure, losing in the Class 4A North finals in 2011. He has also served as head coach at Lawrence County, Water Valley and Franklin County. His overall record is 88-50.
Hammond was the 2011 Daily Journal Coach of the Year. He has been an assistant at Bogue Chitto and helped teams to state championships as defensive coordinator at Lawrence County and McComb.
The new job will start on Jan. 3.
He evolved his football philosophy at Amory. Still defense-oriented, he turned Amory into a high-flying five-wide offense that flourished the last two seasons.
“I have to come in and look at what’s in the building. We’ll look and make that decision,” he said. “I believe in great defense, special teams with a lot of different looks and I’ve really fallen in love with the quick-tempo offense. That’s one thing I want to keep here.”
Hammond will also serve as assistant athletic director and will meet with current Tupelo assistants before a decision is made on Amory assistants joining him.
Tupelo went 4-7 this season and missed the playoffs.
“He sounded pretty confident,” Tupelo sophomore linebacker Justin Clifton said. “He talked about a lot of up-tempo things. We’re all ready.”