Olive Branch High School has again turned to someone with college coaching experience to lead the Conquistadors' football program.
The school is just hoping this time their new coach will last longer than one year.
The DeSoto County School District Board of Education Thursday night approved the hiring of Pete Hurt as the new leader of the Olive Branch football fortunes. The appointment came as part of the personnel portion of the board's recessed meeting and there was no special announcement of the appointment.
Hurt is not new to DeSoto County but actually returns to the area from Georgia Tech, where he has been the Yellowjackets' Assistant Director of Player Personnel since March 2014.
The new Quistors' coach brings 35 years of sideline experience at the college and high school level with more than 100 wins as a head coach.
That coaching experience included a stop as Center Hill football coach between 2007-2010, when the Mustangs were 23-23 with Hurt leading the team.
Hurt's most success likely came at Samford University, where he was the Birmingham, Ala. school's third-winningest coach in school history during eight years on the Bulldogs' sideline, before being released five games into the 2001 season with a 1-4 record.
The Bulldogs were 42-39-1 under Hurt between 1994-2001 and he was also defensive coordinator for one season under Chan Gailey before his promotion, when Gailey took an assistant coaching job in the NFL.
In the high school ranks, the Cleveland, Miss. native has also coached in Clinton and Northwest Rankin, taking both teams and Center Hill past the first round of playoffs while there.
The resume also has Hurt making assistant coaching stops at North Texas, Southeast Missouri, Baylor, Lamar, Rice, Samford, and the Air Force Academy.
Hurt, in a news release announcing the hiring, was quoted as saying he wants to mold Olive Branch back into the elite of Mississippi high school football programs.
“Olive Branch High School is a school with a rich tradition of success, and I would like to make it a top 6A program,” Hurt said.
Hurt added the move back to Mississippi reunites him and his wife with family here.
“We have family in DeSoto County,” Hurt said. “This is where my wife and I want to be. I was in administration at Georgia Tech. This job gives me an opportunity to get back on the field with players. This is what I love.”
Hurt is a graduate of Mississippi College, where he was a three-year letterman in football and two-year letterman in baseball for the Choctows.
Olive Branch has been struggling to keep continuity in its football program the past several years, starting with the dismissal of Scott Samsel by Allyson Killough shortly after she was appointed the school's principal in November 2013.
The dispute leading to Samsel's dismissal turned into a public one with Samsel filing a lawsuit in late May 2014 seeking to get his job back. There has been no resolution to that issue, although Samsel is now football coach and involved in athletic administration at St. Benedict's at Auburndale in Cordova, Tenn.
Samsel's replacement, Jeremy Toungett, lasted just one year and was he dismissed from the job when the Conquistadors failed to make the playoffs in the 2014 season with a 5-6 record.
Toungett now teaches physical education at Horn Lake Middle School.
Steve Buckley, a former Southern Miss and LSU assistant and successful Mississippi high school coach, whose Petal team met Samsel's Olive Branch squad in the 2011 MHSAA 6A finals won by the Quistors 35-34, was hired to replace Toungett, but he surprisingly resigned to become the new head coach at Jones County Junior College last December, shortly after his only season in Olive Branch ended.
Buckley was able to get Olive Branch back to the MHSAA 6A playoffs, but finished the fall with a 6-6 record after a 46-24 loss to eventual state champion Starkville in the first round of the postseason.
Now, the eyes of the Olive Branch football world will be watching to see if new coach Pete Hurt can return the Conquistadors to the postseason again this coming fall.
Those same eyes will be watching to see if the new coach stays longer than one year and provide continuity to a program that is desperately starving for it.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.