HAMILTON — It has been quite a year for Nate Mahon.
Mahon kicked off the year being inducted into the Hamilton High School Athletic Hall of Fame before leading the Little Miami Panthers to the Division II football playoffs for the first time since 1992.
The 2003 HHS graduate will conclude the year being named the next head coach of the Big Blue football team. The Hamilton City School District made that announcement Wednesday, pending school board approval Dec. 18.
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“Yes, it has been quite a good year,” Mahon said. “It is really hard to believe it’s real. I have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be thankful for. I am honored to be considered the person to lead the Hamilton High football team. This is a dream come true.”
Mahon led the Panthers the past three seasons, taking Little Miami from obscurity to the regional semifinals this year, but the lure of coming back to Hamilton was too strong to ignore.
“Let’s just say there is only one home, and home is coming back to Hamilton for me,” Mahon said. “I am the coach and person I am today due to my experience in high school at Hamilton High. To be the person and coach to bring the Big Blue back to the playoffs is the job. There is no greater opportunity out there for me than that.”
Mahon, a football and baseball standout in his playing days at HHS, replaces Chad Murphy, who resigned after six seasons and a 14-46 record at the Big Blue helm.
Mahon informed the Little Miami team and assistant coaches of his decision in a quickly called meeting Tuesday.
He was 21-12 in three seasons at Northwest before taking over a Little Miami squad coming off a 2-8 season. The Panthers went 19-13 under Mahon, including a 9-3 mark in 2018. The nine wins were the second-best total in school history.
“It was very hard,” Mahon said. “Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I am indebted to those kids, those parents, that school district for the opportunity. It was easy to turn the program around, and my memories of Little Miami are fantastic. “
Mahon gets a Big Blue team that finished this season 1-9 overall and 1-7 in the always rugged Greater Miami Conference. Mahon said his eyes are wide open to the history of four playoff appearances in 38 years for the Big Blue, yet said the chance to correct that is appetizing.
“0-4,” Mahon said of the Big Blue’s playoff woes. “I am excited to get to know the kids and figure out who they are and how we can turn this around. It’s going to be interesting. I have watched from afar how Hamilton is doing, but really it has been 16 years since I have been back.”
Mahon has an overall record of 40-25, leading both Northwest and Little Miami to the playoffs. He was also a head coach at Central Dauphin East in Harrisburg, Pa., but never actually coached a game in that position.
Mahon was an assistant at CD East and Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg for one season apiece, also coaching collegiately as an assistant at Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
“It’s good to be home,” Mahon said of his message to the Hamilton faithful. “Three years ago people thought I was crazy going to Little Miami, and look what we accomplished. That job is a pretty good job now.”
The HHS administration had no comment on the hire, referring to a press release from Hamilton City School District Communication Director Joni Copas.
Calls to Hamilton athletic director Todd Grimm were referred to Copas, and calls to Hamilton principal John Wilhelm were not returned.
Hamilton’s release stated that Mahon will be assigned as a secondary school assistant principal for the 2019-20 school year.
According to Mahon, he will continue his principal duties at Little Miami the remainder of the school year, beginning his new job at HHS on Aug. 1.
Mahon, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Miami University and a master’s degree in education from Indianapolis, said he will meet the Big Blue players after he receives board approval.
Hamilton will open the 2019 season at West Clermont. The program’s last winning season came in 2010.