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Pharr: push ahead, look back
God, family push decision toward CAK

God and family must come before Admiral navy blue, no matter how gut-wrenching Tommy Pharr’s decision was to leave Farragut High School for Christian Academy of Knoxville.

In reference to wife, Anne, and children Case, 9, and Callie Jo, 7, “I felt like God was kinda nudging us that way,” said Pharr, leading Farragut to five Class AAA state titles in 12 years, about accepting the baseball varsity head coaching job at CAK along with becoming assistant athletics director.

“Hopefully, to have a little more margin in my life to be a better husband, a better dad, just have more time with my family,” Pharr added.”

Pharr’s children “will go to school there. … they have K-through-12 all on the same campus,” he said. “There’ll be times, maybe, where I can go eat lunch with them. Just be with them more and do some things and hopefully be a little bit more special from that standpoint.

During a celebration gathering to honor the 2009 state championship team Monday, June 22, in the FHS Commons, Pharr fought back tears and explained his deciision. “It's been a hard decision. ... Sometimes you just make decisions that come from your heart, and some come from your head.”

Pharr recalled some advice he received in Texas while a volunteer assistant at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, of the Big 12 Conference: “'If you're doing your best to walk with Gold and trying to align with His will, everything else in your life is just details.

“I feel like for our family and for us, the best we can tell [after] praying and having people praying for us, that this is where God would have us go and what He'd have us do. It doesn't make it easy.”

About initially making the move, Pharr said late last week, “It’s been kind of a whirlwind ’cause it wasn’t anything that I actually sought. They just gave me a call and I went over. It happened within, like, a three-day period.”

Pharr, a two-time National Coach of the Year honoree while named a four-time Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Coach of the Year, said CAK officials first contacted him Monday night, June 8. “I thought, ‘let’s just see what they had,’” he said. “I went over on Tuesday and met with a couple of administrators.

“I went in and interviewed Wednesday morning before we left on vacation. They called with a proposal on, I guess, Thursday. I think it was Sunday night [June 14] when we decided.”

Concerning financial motives, Pharr said, “I know there’s been speculation that’s it’s financial; it’s really not. I mean, financially it’s about the same deal.”

Pharr said taking on a new challenge “is part of it, too, just something new … They’ve had some good teams, good players.”

The former FHS coach also said his “administrative duties” as assistant athletics director are “appealing to me … A lot of it’s going to be dealing with the coordination of facilities as far as scheduling events [athletic and non-athletic].

“And just the maintenance of the outdoor facilities,” Pharr added. “I enjoy mowing, I enjoy growing the grass, just the whole field stuff. … Mowing is a little bit like therapy for me.”

Pharr, 49, will be in charge of about 10 acres of sports facilities on the CAK campus, athletics director Steve Denny said.

Pharr said he realizes at a smaller school such as CAK as opposed to FHS, “they’re going to have more kids that play multiple sports. But I’m going to try to do a lot of the same things as far as the way we run the program.”

Denny said, “We’re extremely excited and very pleased to have Tommy join us ... with his credentials in the game and the ability to coach the game at a high level.

“And to have a man of his character that can mentor and disciple young men on a spiritual level, that’s huge for our school,” Denny added. “In fact, I had someone [recently] say, ‘rating him one to 10, he’s a 15.’ His teams are technically sound and he has good relationships with his players and their families.

“They had actually talked to him about three years ago. We circled back around and revisited it.”

A native Mississippian, Pharr earned a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University in 1983 and a master’s degree at Tennessee Tech, where he served as an assistant from 1989 to 1991.

Pharr was head coach at Monterey High School in Middle Tennessee (1992-95), where he mentored a standout catcher: future BHS head coach Matt Buckner.

At Baylor, Pharr “helped with the pitching” while in charge of field maintenance for two seasons before coming to FHS for the 1997-98 school year as head coach and physical education teacher.

Despite the success CAK had under third-year head coach Kent Mathews in 2009 — winning the program’s first-ever District 4-AA title and earning its first-ever TBCA top-10 state ranking — a move was required.

Denny said CAK was required to hire a new head coach based on two TSSAA stipulations: Mathews was neither a faculty member nor had been connected with the program for at least five years.

As for Mathews, “He’s worked hard and done a tremendous service to our program,” Denny said. “Great guy, I wish him the best. It’s an unfortunate situation. I think a lot of people around here knew the situation that we were in.

“At the same time we’re very blessed to have a man like Tommy Pharr.”

“Anne and I, we had a lot of our friends praying for us. Worried about it a lot, talked about it.”


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