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COLLEGE RECLAIMS NATURE COAST AD

Jason Montgomery, also the girls basketball coach, will lead a Tennessee CC team.

Jason Montgomery is back coaching in the college ranks where he always hoped to return, and his former assistant, Travis Lamle, is picking up where Montgomery left off.

Lamle will replace Montgomery as girls basketball coach and athletic director at Nature Coast. He was chosen out of a pool of 15 applicants.

Montgomery, who left the Sharks in late June, is the head women's basketball coach at Volunteer State Community College, a Tennessee school that shares the same conference with St. Catharine College in Kentucky. Montgomery was the head coach at St. Catharine for four seasons before being tapped to start Nature Coast's program in 2003.

"From Day 1 I told them if I had the right college opportunity, I'd like to get back," Montgomery said. "I always thought Volunteer State was one of the top two or three jobs in that league."

Leaving Nature Coast was hard for Montgomery because of the talent the Sharks are poised to return for the 2007-08 season. In four seasons, Montgomery led the Sharks to an 85-33 record, two district titles and three sweet 16 appearances.

While his teams were successful on the court, Montgomery weathered his share of controversy off the court. Recruiting allegations led the Florida High School Athletic Association to slap Nature Coast with three years of administrative probation and a $1,250 fine in 2006. Five hundred of those dollars were paid out of the girls basketball team's budget.

At Volunteer State, Montgomery has eight players returning from a team that went 15-13 last year. He is optimistic about his Tennessee squad, but equally positive about Nature Coast's upcoming season, especially the hiring of Lamle.

Montgomery called Lamle one of the hardest workers he has ever met and said his assistant of three years was the logical choice to fill the position.

"From the athletic director standpoint, he was athletic director at Fox Chapel for quite some time," Montgomery said. "He's had experience.

"From a basketball standpoint, he's a logical choice because you have so much coming back on this team, and we have been so successful."

Lamle, a former eighth-grade girls basketball coach at Fox Chapel, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or (352) 544-9480.

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