High School Sports

Football coach Justin Hardin leaving Independence, to join Charlotte Latin as defensive coordinator

Former Independence head coach Justin Hardin talks to his team while facing Butler during the Southwestern 4A championship prep football game last November. Hardin announced he is leaving to become an assistant at Charlotte Latin Wednesday. Photo by JASON E. MICZEK - Special to the Observer
Former Independence head coach Justin Hardin talks to his team while facing Butler during the Southwestern 4A championship prep football game last November. Hardin announced he is leaving to become an assistant at Charlotte Latin Wednesday. Photo by JASON E. MICZEK - Special to the Observer WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM

Justin Hardin, who spent the past season as football at Independence High, is leaving the 4A program to become defensive coordinator at Charlotte Latin, he announced Wednesday.

Hardin, who begins his new job July 1, was a Hawks assistant from 2007-2009, when he coached wide receivers. After leaving Latin in 2009, Hardin was head coach for two seasons at Weddington High in Union County, going 14-11 overall, and he coached two seasons at Providence, where he was 18-9.

At Independence last season, he was 8-5. The Patriots lost 49-7 to East Forsyth in the second round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs.

“I am honored and privileged to return as a member of the Charlotte Latin community,” Hardin said. “I look forward to working alongside coach McNulty, the football team, and the student-athletes at Charlotte Latin School.”

Latin coach Larry McNulty, 69, will start his 46th season next fall, including his 31st at Charlotte Latin.

McNulty said when former Latin defensive coordinator Mike Hawks left to become head coach at Carolina Pride, he called college contacts about finding a good young replacement. When that didn’t pan out, he called Hardin, whom he thought was well-connected in high school coaching circles.

“I asked him, ‘Do you know anybody? I really need to make a good hire,’ ” McNulty said. “He said, ‘Hey I’d be interested.’ I had no idea he’d be interested, but I would be crazy to not talk to somebody that has his background. I consider him to be one of the best young coaches in the Carolinas.”

McNulty said he doesn’t have any firm plans to retire after the season, and this move doesn’t necessarily mean Hardin is his successor.

“When I do finally decide to retire, Justin will certainly be a candidate,” McNulty said. “But the school has made it clear that they’ll go through a process like any other time. There’s not been a promise to me that he’ll be the next coach. But at this point, I’m still having fun and I’m planning on coaching next year and see where it goes from there. As long as it’s fun, I’m in.”

At Independence, athletics director Kelly Lewis will look to hire his fourth coach in eight years. Independence has had five straight winning seasons.

“Coach Hardin announced to the team (Wednesday) that he will be leaving Independence at the end of the year,” Lewis said in a statement. “This was his decision. While we are saddened to lose him, the search for his replacement will begin immediately.”

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