The head football coaching vacancy at Walker High School appeared to be headed into the month of March when the school’s principal, Jason St. Pierre, received an inquiry over the weekend into the status of the job.
That interest came from none other than University High’s Chad Mahaffey, the architect of one of the Baton Rouge area top football dynasties, who agreed to an on-campus tour of the school and its athletic facilities earlier this week.
Several follow-up phone calls and a sit-down meeting that aligned philosophies and a vision for the program were all the 40-year-old Mahaffey needed to inform St. Pierre he no longer had a coaching vacancy.
Walker High officially announced via social media Wednesday afternoon the hiring of Mahaffey, who guided University High to three state championships in nine seasons, including the last two straight in Division II.
“It wasn’t about a need to move,” Mahaffey said. “It was more of the excitement about what I think the opportunities are at Walker. There’s a lot of things in place at the school that will allow me to be a better coach, do a better job and spend more time with it.”
Mahaffey, a Baton Rouge native and graduate of Catholic High School, replaces Cecil Thomas who resigned Jan. 24 to accept the head coaching position at Sulphur High.
“He’s such a great coach and you’re looking at what he’s done and how he’s done it,” St. Pierre said. “He does it the right way. He molds young men for character on and off the field. We want to build our program and his plan is tremendous. You look at all of those things and his success and what he’s done. We just want to emulate that success here.”
Mahaffey is also excited about the prospect of putting together a coaching staff proportionate to other successful Class 5A programs.
Mahaffey, who called his own plays at U-High, said one of his top priorities after meeting the team and learning about his personnel will be to hire a defensive coordinator.
He’s also interested in meeting with current Walker assistant Carmon Moore, who has handled the day-to-day operations of the program since Thomas’ departure, about the possibility of remaining on staff.
“I have the ability to bring some people in,” Mahaffey said. “I want to get to work on the staff as soon as possible.”
University High finished the 2018 season with a 55-46 victory over St. Thomas More, capping the school’s second straight Division II state title and perfect 13-0 season, extending the Cubs winning streak to 26 straight games.
Mahaffey, who will have a one-year contract, said he plans to begin his new position at Walker High following the Mardi Gras holiday.
St. Pierre believed the school’s gleaming new facilities – both academic and athletic - were big selling points in being able to attract a candidate of Mahaffey’s stature.
“When you look our facilities from the weight room, the field, the gym, film room, locker room are all very nice,” he said. “You’re on (cable) TV every week at home. The pieces are in place to do it. It’s not like you’re starting from scratch.”
Mahaffey will inherit a program that went through two head coaches last season.
Thomas served on an interim basis after being elevated to that role in Week 2 following the resignation of then head coach Lester Ricard after a 1-0 start to the season.
Thomas led Walker to a 7-3 record and second-place finish in District 4-5A. He was named the school’s permanent head coach before the start of the Class 5A state playoffs, but that appointment lasted less than two months when Thomas resigned to become head coach at Sulphur High.
The Wildcats, who lost at home to Hahnville in the opening round of the playoffs, wound up with an 8-3 record.
“It’s a not a rebuilding situation, these guys have had some success,” Mahaffey said. “We’re just trying to add and build upon that which is the challenge to all of that. There’re phases they’ve achieved. Now it’s to try and add to that.”
Mahaffey transformed a successful U-High program into a state power during his tenure, raising the standard to a national level this past season where the Cubs finished ranked No. 21 by MaxPreps.com.
Mahaffey averaged 11 wins per season while at U-High, compiling a 102-51 record with state championships in 2014 (Class 3A), ’17 and ’18.
For his career Mahaffey, who spent a season at Vermilion Catholic in Abbeville, is 106-20, and was voted the Class 3A Coach of the Year in 2014.
His coaching career also includes stops at Central (offensive coordinator), Catholic High, Catholic-Pointe Coupee (offensive coordinator), Bastrop (offensive coordinator) and Houston-Aldine.
Mahaffey is the grandson of legendary coach Robert “Racer” Holstead, who concluded a 42-year career as a head coach (48 overall) at Tallulah and Tallulah Academy with a 309-146-8 record, four state championships and five state runners-up finishes.
“The big selling point was sitting down with Jason and Steve (Johnson) and being on the same page as to the potential they saw and how to get there,” Mahaffey said. “That part’s very exciting, not that it wasn’t at U-High.”