Blair Hardin’s 32 birthday came with a nice gift.
A new job.
On Monday, Horry County Schools approved the Freedom (N.C.) High School football coach to take over the same position at North Myrtle Beach. Hardin will be charged with leading a program that has seen one of the state’s biggest on-field turnarounds in the last three seasons under former coach Perry Woolbright.
“I think there’s a great mix of kids at the school,” Hardin said after he was officially announced as the Chiefs’ next head. “They’re No. 1 or No. 2 in the county in test scores. There’s a great network of support in terms of intangibles. It’s one of the best places to be in the entire state of South Carolina.”
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North Myrtle Beach, which was 0-20 in Woolbright’s first two seasons, won five games in 2012 before going 9-3 and winning a first-round playoff game last fall. It was considered among the best years in school history.
Hardin, meanwhile, has known little other than winning. He was 51-17 in five seasons at Porter Ridge (Indian Trail, N.C.), leading the Pirates to the state title game in back-to-back seasons before leaving last year to take over at Freedom in Morganton.
There, he was 11-2.
The record, as nice as it looks on paper, was only part of the story for the Chiefs. Athletics Director Joe Quigley pointed not only to the success, but the rapid pace at which it’s happened.
“With him to come in that young and that much experience, we’re excited,” Quigley said. “Any time you hire someone that young, you’re taking a chance. But we feel our kids are going to relate to him.”
Quigley said Hardin will teach the school’s weight training program, and he will also be responsible for coaching the boys track team in the spring. He’ll officially take over all three roles on Thursday, one day after Freedom’s graduation.
It will cap a process that took less than one calendar month start to finish after Woolbright resigned on May 14 to take over at Batesburg-Leesville. North Myrtle Beach and Horry County Schools agreed to forgo some of their normal protocol with the job listing, leaving it posted for less than a week after an abnormally high number of applications shot into the system.
Late last week, the North Myrtle Beach administration selected Hardin over a pair of other N.C. coaches. Joey Price from Wallace-Rose Hill and Tommy Norwood of Ragsdale were the other two announced finalists.
Hardin – the son of North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame member Bruce Hardin – was then approved during the district’s meeting Monday night.
The Chiefs’ new coach graduated from The Citadel in 2004 and said he was able to discuss the opening with Woolbright. The two knew each other from their days in the Southern Conference while Woolbright was a walk-on at Appalachian State. Hardin received an endorsement from a number of area coaches with ties to either The Citadel, N.C. prep football or other avenues. Last December, he was also believed to be the youngest assistant coach in Shrine Bowl history when he served on the N.C. staff.
The stout resume and pedigree more led him to his third head coaching opening in three seasons.
“I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities,” Hardin said. “When an opportunity presents itself, I think I take advantage of it. … But I told [the search committee], I’m committed to being a Chief for a long time.”