Hart also has sons and grandchildren in Burlington, N.C., that he wants to visit more often. Coaching high school football doesn’t allow for much down time.
Hart’s retirement not only from coaching but also teaching will allow him to have the time to spend with family in Ohio and North Carolina. The decision has been weighing on his mind for awhile.
“I almost went a year ago,” he said. “I almost went eight years ago.”
After his second season at Ashland, his wife, Mattie, unexpectedly died and Hart wasn’t sure what he was going to do. However, the Ashland community showed compassion and that they cared so he decided to stay.
“It was amazing to me at the time the way the community put their arms around me,” he said. “I’d been here two years. Her family was saying ‘What are you to these people?’ I said, ‘I’m their football coach.’’’
Hart said when he was on the recruiting trail for EKU he always looked for a place like Ashland where he could settle down into a community and coach on Friday nights.
“Friday nights in Putnam Stadium are unbelievably special for anybody who gets the chance to be there,” Hart said.
Ashland’s teams soared under Hart. Ian Holbrook and Sam Holbrook became record-setting quarterbacks in the high-octane offenses. The Tomcats put up points in record fashion and were fundamentally sound in all facets.
“A lot of guys made me look like a good football coach for the past 10 years,” Hart said.
His calling card was an explosive and sometimes unpredictable offense. Hart was good at using what the talent dictated. He had teams that ran unbalanced lines in a jumbo set, with extra tackles lined up as tight ends.
“He was an offensive genius,” said Tomcat radio man David Payne. “The kids loved him. The younger players loved him. He made changes in JFL that served the program well.”